Post Number One

I just read the latest ICOS report “Afghanistan Transition: Dangers of a Summer Drawdown.” [pdf]

Overall, it seemed to me to be rather negative, concerning the situation in Afghanistan. Two things in particular caught my attention. First, the critique of the ANSF seems unnecessary. Second, the statistics surrounding the Afghan people’s knowledge of why NATO forces are in their country.

ANSF

However, the result of training as many ANSF as fast as possible is a flood of advanced weaponry into the hands of tens of thousands of mostly young men, whose allegiance is often fluid under the pressures they face. There is a risk of trained ANA or ANP switching alliances or fighting for the insurgency instead of for the Afghan state.

This section in particular, based on my understanding of the situation, seemed a little off-base. To threaten defection because of "fluid" allegiances is misleading. Moreover, it detracts from all the positive work that is being done with regard to the ANA and ANP.

It might well be the case that defection from the police is a serious issue in Afghanistan, but without any kind of policing, nothing long-term will be achieved. Of course announcing a date for the withdrawal of NATO forces was unwise, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have noble intentions. Of course we should be saying "end-state not end date." But there has to be room for development, and mistakes.

Omelette and eggs, I think.

A Tale of Two Statistics

I’m wary of quantitative data. Without extensive context, they are difficult to use for any real purpose. However, there were two pieces of data which—if they based on reliable informants and have not been skewed or otherwise manipulated—got my attention.

The first: only 8% of the 1,000 men of Helmand and Kandahar were aware of the "event which the foreigners call 9/11." Really, that speaks for itself.

The second: "in October 2010, 40% of interviewees in Helmand and Kandahar believed that foreigners were in Afghanistan to occupy or destroy the country, or to destroy Islam."

I was under the impression that extensive propaganda campaigns were engaged in at the start of the conflict (2001) to inform and reassure the Afghan people.

Was this not the case? If so, where do you think the disconnect between this information and the Afghan people lies?

I’m interested to read your thoughts.