Monthly Archives: November 2009


US Tries New Tack Against Taliban via

Entry Excerpt:

US Tries New Tack Against Taliban – Anand Gopal, Wall Street Journal.

The US-led coalition and the Afghan government are launching an initiative to persuade Taliban insurgents to lay down their weapons, offering jobs and protection to the militants who choose to abandon their fight. While President Hamid Karzai’s government has been trying to woo these insurgents for years, the new program marks the first time that the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces are systematically reaching out to Taliban fighters. The tactic comes as the US prepares to announce Tuesday how many additional troops it will send to Afghanistan as part of a new strategy aimed at bringing the eight-year war to a successful end. US officials also hope America’s European allies will raise their troop contributions as part of the new push.

The Afghan government has had a reconciliation program in place since 2004, and claims to have turned more than 8,000 insurgents. That program, however, is widely derided as corrupt and ineffective. Insurgents were enticed with offers of jobs but rarely received the promised assistance, leading many to rejoin the fight. Western officials behind the new reconciliation program say they believe the majority of insurgents are fighting for money – the Taliban often pay their members – or personal grievances. Luring such men from the battlefield is a central component of America’s new counterinsurgency strategy crafted by US Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top allied commander here…


Afghanistan hikes police salaries (AP via Yahoo! News)

Afghanistan hikes police salaries (AP via Yahoo! News): “Afghanistan is hiking police salaries by between 33 and 67 percent, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday, to curb rampant corruption and boost recruitment in a force that suffers much higher casualty rates than the insurgency-wracked country’s army.”


Contracting for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan via

DIIG Current Issues No. 16: Contracting for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: ”

The U.S. government has spent $153B in 2008 dollars on contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and their neighborhoods since fiscal year (FY) 2001, according to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). In June 2009, 194,000 contractors were working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to 190,000 U.S. troops. At least 1,200 contractors have been killed in the two wars.


Center Looks Ahead to ‘Hybrid Threat’ Training via

FORT IRWIN, Ca: When the National Training Center opened here in 1981, it presented the most realistic training environment imaginable to prepare troops for a potential large-scale, tank-on-tank confrontation with the Soviet Union in Germany’s Fulda Gap.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NTC transformed dramatically to train deploying warfighters for the fight against terrorists and insurgent groups in Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan. The Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., conducts most Afghanistan-based mission rehearsal exercises.

Today, as the military begins drawing down in Iraq, the NTC cadre is looking ahead to what they believe will be this sweeping training center’s future role. Instead of preparing troops for either conventional or irregular warfare, they expect to train them to face “hybrid threats” that include both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.

That will require another major transformation at NTC, a post larger than Rhode Island deep within the Mojave Desert.

NTC long ago shed its Cold War focus, with a permanent opposing force that used Warsaw Pact tactics, dressed in Soviet-type uniforms and navigated the training grounds in Vietnam-era M-551 Sheridan tanks modified to look like the T-72 and BMP tanks.

The focus turned to counterinsurgency operations required in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops deploying to the combat theater were trained in mounted and dismounted patrols, cordon-and-search missions, searches for weapons and high-value targets, bilateral talks with Iraqi officials and infrastructure missions. They also learned how to detect the enemy’s weapon of choice: improvised explosive devices.

As Iraqi security forces increasingly took the lead in security operations, the NTC cadre began training the new “advise and assist” brigades deploying to support them.

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U.N. moves 600 foreign staffers in Afghanistan (New Haven Register)

U.N. moves 600 foreign staffers in Afghanistan (New Haven Register): “Associated Press KABUL — The United Nations is sending about 600 foreign staff out of the country or into secure compounds because of the deadly Taliban attack on U.N. workers, warning the Afghan government Thursday that international support will wane unless it cracks down on corruption fueling the insurgency.”


Obama nearing decision to send more troops to Afghanistan via

Obama nearing decision to send more troops to Afghanistan: “The Army’s counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan’s population would require about …


Anti-terrorism training school to be opened in MP (New Kerala)

Anti-terrorism training school to be opened in MP (New Kerala): “Shivpuri, MP, Nov 5 : In a bid to counter terrorism and insurgency, a training school for security officials and jawans was in the offing here.”


Afghan Push May Threaten Pakistan via

Afghan Push May Threaten Pakistan: “Supporters of an escalation in Afghanistan argue that only a troop intensive counterinsurgency there can prevent a spillover of the fighting into neighboring Pakistan, a much more strategically vital country. CSIS’s Rick Nelson warns that an expanded offensive in Afghanistan risks pushing more militants into Pakistan, worsening stability there and ultimately hindering efforts to eliminate Al Qaeda.

The Problem With Training Afghan Troops (Time Magazine)

The Problem With Training Afghan Troops (Time Magazine): “Our troops have become excellent at building security and civil society in Afghan communities, but if the Afghans aren’t able to sustain the institutions we initiate, we’re building sand castles”


Saudi jets pound al-Houthi strongholds (UPI)

Saudi jets pound al-Houthi strongholds (UPI): “SANAA, Yemen, Nov. 6 (UPI) — Saudi forces reportedly bombed al-Houthi rebel strongholds along the shared border with Yemen in a sign of an escalating fight against a growing insurgency.”


Pak Committee calls for escalating India’s involvement in domestic insurgency to UN (Calcutta News)

Pak Committee calls for escalating India’s involvement in domestic insurgency to UN (Calcutta News): “Islamabad, Nov.4 : Pakistan Parliament’s National Security Committee has asked the government to rake up the issue of India’s involvement in fanning insurgency inside the country at all national and international forums, including the United Nations (UN).”


Southern war via

So far the wars of the 21st Century have revolved around insurgencies with nameless, faceless and often fearless fighters bombing, shooting and beheading with little care for their own lives.

Afghanistan and Pakistan show how difficult and expensive these insurgencies are to counter and how disruptive and divisive they can be even with ill-defined, non-specific objectives.

Thailand seems about as far from the Taliban as you can get, yet just a short distance from its golden tourist beaches and paradise islands, an insurgency has been raging for five years.

Someone is killed on average every day in the provinces on the country’s southern border with Malaysia, where a shadowy group of Islamist extremists are stirring up a deepening sectarian divide.

In just five years 3,800 people have been killed and more than 6,000 injured. But what they want is not totally clear and no group has ever publically admitted they carried out an attack.

They have no links to al-Qaeda and few ties to foreign organisations except perhaps a few cash donations to keep the Islamic extremist message of violence going.

Tens of thousands of troops have been deployed, and now civilians appear to be encouraged to take the law into their own hands.

Divided communities

At the local Buddhist temple at Trohgen village in Pattani province a class is being held for a group of mostly female community volunteers – but this is no religious ceremony.


It is a refresher course to remind them how to clean, maintain and use the shotguns they have been given by the government for their own protection.

“It’s getting more violent every day,” said Monthira Peng-Iad, a 40-year-old farmer.

“So many of my relatives have been shot and killed I feel bitter inside. I want to know how to shoot, so I can help people in the village.”

In a community in which Muslims and Buddhists used to live side-by-side in peace, her rhetoric shows how divisive the insurgency has been.

“It’s time to fight otherwise all the Thai Buddhists will be killed. We used to be friends and relatives but now we are divided. Now they see all of us as enemies. They kill us.”

Civilians targeted

One human rights group says up to a hundred thousand civilian Buddhists and Muslims have been given guns to “protect” themselves in the three southern provinces of Thailand, but this is a figure the military denies.

However many guns there are, the violence doesn’t appear to be abating.


At al-Furquan mosque in Ai Payae village, Narathiwat province, there are more armed men on guard outside than there are inside for afternoon prayers.

The group of 18 Muslim men were armed by the government but did not appear particularly well-drilled in weapons safety.

They were brought in after an attack on the mosque in June when gunmen opened fire killing ten people and injured 12.

Ayu Jeh-Ngoh was shot twice, once in the back and once in the leg as he prayed. He suspects the attackers were from a nearby Buddhist village, taking revenge after a Buddhist was killed in the area.

Others in the area suspect a similar thing, but nobody has been charged with the attack and they said the investigation did not appear to be going anywhere.

The victims are often civilians, especially teachers, who in the most dangerous areas travel to school on motorbikes in groups with armed soldiers as outriders to protect them.

Sukhon Deangchot teaches at a school which has already been bombed once.

“We’re really worried about our security when going to work. I’ve no idea who is targeting us,” she said.

Hearts and minds

Tens of thousands of troops are still struggling to contain the violence.

Thousands of auxiliaries have been trained and civilians have been armed or given radios and drafted in as spies on neighbourhood watch.

Lt Gen Kasikorn Keereesri is the Combined Task Force commander. He is trying all sorts of counter-insurgency tactics to win people over and isolate the bombers.

“The number of incidents is decreasing, but every time something happens it is more violent and it causes more damage,” he said.

“The insurgents have started to attack more in big cities now using car bombs which cause more damage inside the city.

“Our strategy is that we have to control the insurgents’ freedom of movement in the villages. We have to win the hearts and minds of villagers and make them side with us.”

It is a similar challenge facing American and Nato troops in Afghanistan and it is far from easy, even with their huge resources.

Farming courses are run to help poorer people and money is spent on other projects, but there have been human rights abuses carried out by some members of the security forces – something the general accepts has not helped, but says is now being addressed.

Both sides are being dragged into the division and instability which the insurgency brings.

“My house was burned down, my husband was shot dead, my daughter was shot and my son disappeared,” said Kuang Narumon, a 52-year-old Buddhist.

“We don’t trust each other now,” she said with a nervous, fixed smile. “We’re separate – not like we used to be.”


Afghanistan: Can the U.S. Succeed with President Karzai? (Time Magazine)

Afghanistan: Can the U.S. Succeed with President Karzai? (Time Magazine): “Good governance in Afghanistan has been identified as the key to beating the Taliban, and few are expecting the re-elected President, Hamid Karzai, to deliver. But Karzai knows that his life may depend on keeping the U.S. involved”


Confronting the Hydra: Big Problems with Small Wars via

Confronting the Hydra: Big Problems with Small Wars – Lieutenant Colonel Mark O’Neill, Lowy Institute.

Australia’s current role in Afghanistan is the latest experience in a long history of involvement in counterinsurgency conflicts or ‘small wars’. Such commitments may begin as wars of choice, but history suggests they can turn into wars of necessity, and their costs and political impact can be large. In this Lowy Institute Paper, Mark O’Neill charts the enduring nature of Australia’s problems with such wars. He concludes that, as a democratic middle power that chooses to wage counterinsurgency conflicts, Australia needs improved strategic policy approaches and capabilities to overcome a complex and many-headed threat.


The Rising Cost of War in Afghanistan via

As Iraq collapsed into sectarian fratricide, the primary victims were Iraqis. As combat rises in Afghanistan, Americans and other allied personnel are the primary targets. And the casualty toll is rising.

Reports the Washington Post:

More than 1,000 American troops have been wounded in battle over the past three months in Afghanistan, accounting for one-fourth of those injured in combat since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

The dramatic increase in amputees and other seriously injured service members comes as October marks the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.Expanded military operations, a near-doubling of the number of troops since the beginning of the year and a Taliban offensive that has included a proliferation of roadside bombings have led to the great increase in casualties. U.S. troops in Afghanistan are suffering wounds at a higher rate than those who were serving in Iraq when violence spiraled during the military “surge” two years ago. In mid-2007, 600 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq each month out of about 150,000 troops deployed there. In Afghanistan, about 68,000 troops are currently installed, with about 350 wounded each month recently.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell acknowledged that the casualties in Afghanistan have surpassed Iraq surge proportions and noted that the violence in Afghanistan is directed more against U.S. and other coalition forces, whereas it was heavily sectarian in Iraq. “It shows you how we are the targets and how effectively they are targeting us,” Morrell said.

President Obama should ponder well the rising costs as he considers U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. First, what is Washington hoping to achieve, and are the benefits worth ever more American deaths and injuries? Second, whatever he thinks is the best strategy, are the American people likely to support it over the long term? There would be nothing more foolish than to escalate and plan for years of war only to be forced into a speedy and unplanned withdrawal as the public demanded an end to what it saw as a useless conflict.

Defending America should be the administration’s top priority. That means a strategy of counter-terrorism rather than counter-insurgency. However much we might want to transform Afghan society and government, we are not likely to be able to do so at reasonable cost in reasonable time. We should step back from the brink rather than take the plunge into the potentially bottomless Afghan abyss.