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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Failure in Afghanistan who is to blame?

Blame for the failure of NATO and the United States for the way the war in Afghanistan has been fought has been thrown around for several years.  It is now coming to the surface that even George W Bush is claiming the allies have not done enough.  

George W Bush has laid the blame for the prolonged war in Afghanistan on NATO allies who didn't pull their weight on the battlefield.  The ex-president blasted critics who claim his administration took its 'eye off the ball' and allowed the conflict to escalate during the invasion of Iraq.  In an interview with CNN, Mr Bush said he assumed allied forces would take up the slack while US troops were busy toppling Saddam Hussein and coping with the ensuing insurgency.  'What happened in Afghanistan was that our NATO allies, some of them,  turned out not to be willing to fight.'   
'Therefore, our assumption that we had ample troops - US and NATO troops - turned out to be not a true assumption. 
So we adjusted,' he added.  
George W Bush has been quoted from his new book 'Decision Points' 

In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.  "I'm worried we're deploying [military advisers] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations."   (Huffington Post January 2008)
Britain's Defense Secretary John Hutton, sharply criticized fellow NATO members, saying "they should not expect the United States to shoulder the main weight of combat responsibilities in Afghanistan."
NATO has been given much of the blame for the failure of the execution of the war.

The reality is also much more complex then several quotes thrown out for political expediency.
File:Afghanistan ISAF Sept2008.jpg
The experience on the ground has more to do with the failure of the Pakistan government and its American allies in securing the AFK and PAK borders.  This is something that is very foreign to NATO forces and is hard for these governments when the US was involved in a very difficult position of fighting two wars.  One just has to look at a chart of troop commitments to see that right from the beginning that the fall of the Taliban and the build up of an Afghan central government has not been the focus of American foreign policy.
Currently as of 2010 there are 104 000 International troops with 68 000 from the US

"We need more forces to hold effectively what we’ve got,” Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance said, adding “more are coming” in the weeks ahead. Operations in Panjwaii are expected to intensify in September, after the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.  The Canadian military’s focus has already shifted from central and western Panjwaii — where its troops were pulled from hard-won territory last year — to the eastern part of the district nearer Kandahar City and Kandahar Airfield (KAF), the largest International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base in southern Afghanistan.   
 (National Post Aug 2010)
The Obama US surge is a welcome relief to NATO and Afghans troops that have felt for many years as the cutting edge of US foreign policy.  Canadian efforts in the Horn of Panjawii were the result of a decisive battle against 1200 Talib forces , in which the decision to move Canadian Forces into Forward Operating Bases and even police substations have by and large collapsed.  The new focus is on places like the Dand district.  The effort is to, almost, showcase a beacon of light in a province in chaos.  The Afghan people are getting tired of 30 years of war and many of the 4 million refugees that have returned from Pakistan and Iran want peace if not just for their families but for economic stability.
Holding the flag: Members of the Afghanistan women's soccer team celebrate a semi-final victory in the Pakistani national championship in Islamabad.

Hamid Karzai is the president of a nation where the life expectancy is just 45 years (third lowest in the world) and yet the GDP has gone from a low of $2.4 billion in 2001 to $27 billion in 2009.  If one is to looks just at the number of returning refugees and the economic progression then one could argue that the war is won.   Corruption and the on going war has the west looking at the conflict in the south and in many ways ignoring the huge turn around success of Kabul, the North and the East.

One looks to countries like Germany and tries to find blame in their foreign policy and how they fight as to why the war has gone so slowly and also considered by some as a failure.  The truth is one only has to look at the disaster known as the 20th century to see that a Germany that is willing to fight may not be the best idea.  German forces and their commitment to the north and to the capital are good examples of a force that can fight if need be but that should never look for a fight.  The people of Germany would never accept it and we as the colony of nations should never allow it.  This is not to say that countries like Germany are not with out huge military strengths.  One of these strengths is the Leopard tanks first designed to full fill American requests for a European built tank and then when the contracts fell through the Leopard became they best tank in the the cold war.  The German training program and stock of new and used tanks became a great piece that the NATO forces needed in Afghanistan.
The Danish armed forces have deployed the Leopard tank in Helmand and the Canadians in Kandahar.  The Leopard tanks is considered by some to be the best in the world.  Although the Canadian decision to use the tanks almost came as a last minute gift to the members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Lord Strathcona (RC).  The members were looking at the last of the Tanks being moved for training purposes to CFB Wainwright, Alberta in the summer of 2006.  They would have been replaced by a Striker variant (LAV) with a large bored weapon on the roof.  There is even a case of one tank being prepared for display purposes with the brass plaque already installed on its 1980 frame when the call came in to prepare for deployment.
The Leopard tanks and the Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) have been the work horse of the Canadian inventory since the move to the South in 2006. US troops by and large do not like the LAV vehicle which they call the Striker and prefer the more heavily armoured and track vehicle the Bradley which was very successful in the Iraq conflict.  The Leopards and the LAV's have been used for convoy protection and as a mobile fighting platform and even as a forward operating point to reach out and touch the enemy when it chooses to attack.  With Canadian snipers able to make "kills" at over 2.2 kms the tanks and LAV's are in friendly competition to "reach out and touch" the enemy combatants.
Chief of the Danish Forces; Col. Kim Kristensen expects alot from their tanks. "If the saturation in the Danish Area of Operations goes anything like the one in Kandahar were Canadian Forces have been operating tanks since winter, the Taliban attacks will decrease even further."  (Helmund province 2007)
What lessons can we learn?
LAV III Kodiak
Kodiak LAV 3
So we know now that Talib attacks have not diminsihed and the question arises as to why? 
A tank is just a weapon system in a field of 104 000 troops.  More needs to be done to ensure peace within Central Asia.  Peace, order and good government is the Canadian ideal but it is also something the west wants for Afghanistan.

One has to look at the Iraq war and the end state that we have today.  Iraq was on the verge, if not all right civil war, with the north in the hands of the Kurds, Baghdad and the centre fighting itself and the other regions looking for a way out of the country.  
General Patreaus has been placed into a position that many argue should have been created from the beginning.  A "General Eisenhower" position that took control of the war, its NATO and international commitments and limitations and looked at it from a global perspective.  Not all countries like not all soldiers need to be infantry there is a need for a well rounded force that can help do the job.  For every soldier on the front lines there is as many as 10 other soldiers helping to ensure the intelligence, HQ staff, and logistics are in place.  Ever since the Canadians went to fight in RC South there has been a change in doctrine.  From very light forces (which we are so good at) we have moved into a position where 2500 troops were trying to help occupy a region that holds Afghanistan's second largest city.  In reality those 2500 troops are not all shooters (out side the wire) and in general there are about 800 soldiers that were shooters. The training and equipping the Afghan National Army has been a slow and ongoing process. The logistic, Air arm, heavy equipment and even intelligence has been difficult to start from scratch. The Afghan National Police is in disarray and many warlords have their own private armies.  

The people of Afghanistan are tired of foreigners within their borders and many claim that they would rather fight this war on their own.  
The large number of American troops is also a magnate for foreign fighters to use the easy access of US troops to attack and kill Americans which is their oft stated goal. An un-secure AFK and PAK border makes life easier for those fighting in this war and it also makes for a Central Asia that is on the brink.
German citizens in Pakistan
The path forward is to work with training and equipping the Afghan National Army which is doing very well and on its way to becoming a professional army.  The goal of helping the police may have to be left to the Karzai government with the use of tribal elders and warlords to control the populace.  
It worked in Iraq and may also work in Afghanistan.

The war is not a failure as George W. Bush and others have claimed but an ongoing success that will eventually produce fruit if one looks at and realizes the limitations of others and adjusts accordingly.  

Just like LIFE.

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