Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ongoing Afghan Operations Reveal Serious Flaws

The Afghan army still isn't capable to lead in military operations against the Taliban. That means that the burden will remain on the US and NATO forces for the foreseeable future.

However, that doesn't mean that NATO is cognizant of that particularly important fact. They're trying to puff up the Afghan capabilities beyond what is reasonable.

Michael Yon, who has been in Afghanistan has called out NATO for its propaganda. It notes that one metric of how successful the current operations are is whether the Taliban can control cell phone towers
That the enemy controls so many towers is proof they control the ground. Near Sangin, the enemy controls a power station within walking distance of three British bases (2009).
Trying to puff up the Afghan aspect of a recent operation in Helmand province does little to actually improve security on the ground. The gains were fully the result of ISAF and the US forces that participated whereas the Afghan forces involved were merely spectators. This is propaganda we can do without and it does nothing to improve the facts and security on the ground.

What we do know is that the Afghan military is still incapable of the heavy lifting necessary to deal with the ongoing Taliban threat. That's a huge problem and a major impediment to drawing down US or NATO forces in Afghanistan. Moreover, there are issues with the Dutch commitment to NATO's Afghan operation. The Dutch government collapsed yesterday over disagreement over continuing that commitment. Considering that the NATO obligation to help member nations is central to the premise of NATO, this is a huge blow to the organization and to the Dutch government.
Even as the allied offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Marja continued Saturday, it appeared almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops would be gone from Afghanistan by the end of the year. The question plaguing military planners was whether a Dutch departure would embolden the war’s critics in other allied countries, where debate over deployment is continuing, and hasten the withdrawal of their troops as well.

“If the Dutch go, which is the implication of all this, that could open the floodgates for other Europeans to say, ‘The Dutch are going, we can go, too,’ ” said Julian Lindley-French, professor of defense strategy at the Netherlands Defense Academy in Breda. “The implications are that the U.S. and the British are going to take on more of the load.”
The fact is that the US and British have been carrying the heaviest load in Afghanistan all along both in terms of troop commitments and combat operations. Some NATO countries have attempted to limit their offensive military operations in an attempt to limit casualties (to mixed effect as the Taliban attack targets of opportunity). This is yet another test of the Obama Administration to maintain the NATO coalition efforts in Afghanistan and is a test of resolve for NATO planners and military strategists on both sides of the Atlantic.

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