Sunday, July 17, 2011

ANSF Taking the Lead

The build-up phase is now over and it is time for ANSF - Afghan National Security Forces to take the lead in protecting the civilian population from the Taliban.

Nato has handed over control of the central Afghan province of Bamiyan to Afghan security forces. It is the first of seven areas to be passed to local forces under a plan announced by President Karzai in March.

Bamiyan is one of the country's most secure provinces but it is a poor region, heavily reliant on foreign aid.

The handover is seen as a critical step in a transition of power before foreign troops end combat operations in 2014.
However the quality of Afghan police and soldiers is patchy and correspondents warn of fears that they will be unable to withstand a renewed summer offensive from the Taliban.
Analysts say Nato will find it difficult to effect a successful transition without an end to the war and some kind of political settlement with the Taliban.

Bamiyan is the first out of seven regions to be handed over to ANSF. The other six are Kabul province, Panjshir province, Herat city, Mazar-e Sharif city, Lashkar Gah city and Mehtar Lam town. This will affect the Swedish/Finnish PRT in RC North, since Mazar-i Sharif is in the middle of the four provinces (Balkh, Samangan, Jowzjan and Sar-e-Pul) that are part of the PRT. There will be an increased need for cooperation when operations are at the border of the city. There is a risk that Taliban units use the city for protection and hiding if ANSF is not up to the task of keeping the city safe. The Swedish main base is at the edge of the city, but the civilian aid personnel work inside the city.

See this BBC report from Bamiyan. The locals do not seem so sure about ANSF capabilities as NATO is. If Bamiyan is not safe enough, what about the other provinces? In the UK, the Prime Minister receive a lot of warnings regarding the plan to withdraw before 2014.

Pulling British troops out prematurely from Afghanistan could "dangerously weaken" remaining forces, MPs said.

The Commons Defence Committee said David Cameron's plan to withdraw by the end of 2014 could undermine the international coalition's strategy.

And the MPs said they were still not yet convinced the troops now in Afghanistan had sufficient helicopters.

The 2014 timeline now forces all nations to withdraw their troops. maybe the pace is too fast? Are ISAF really following their own Shape, Clear, Hold and Build doctrine? President Obama was very clear in December 2010 that this strategy would be continued. The US and UK forces in the south has focused on the Clear and Hold phases.

The goal of the surge is to "clear" key population centers of insurgents, then "hold" them to prevent insurgents from returning. The next step is to maintain law and order to allow Afghans to "build" normal lives. This is called a "clear, hold, build" strategy, which US forces also used in Iraq.

But has there been enough focus on the Shape and Build? I am afraid that many Taliban fighters have just moved ahead of the coalition forces. It reminds me very much of the US cavalry war against the Apache Indians during the 1850-1900. The big difference is that our troops are not here to stay. Time is on the Taliban side.

My opinion is that more focus should be at the village or Tribal level, not at the national level. But this has not been president Karzais goal, since he risk to loose his power over the population.

The Pentagon has been pushing the small triumphs of its Local Defense Initiative, which attempts to leverage tribal militias into anti-insurgent "neighborhood watches."

But Kabul has pushed back against the initiative, fearing that the arming and promotion of local militias could lead to a civil war similar to the one that engulfed Afghanistan after the Soviets left and which led to the rise of the Taliban.

The problem with the US strategy is that i relies heavily on Pakistan continuing to support ISAF. But after the Usama Bin Laden raid, the US relations with Pakistan has gone sour.

I have seen very few comments in Sweden about when to realistically pull out the Swedish troops. Of course the opposition parties (s), (mp) and (v) all want to pull out the troops as fast as possibly, but no one has any better plan then to start pulling out in 2011 (which has not yet begun) and leave all the provinces to ANSF by 2014. Instead the Swedish unit has been reinforced with MEDEVAC helicopters. HKP 10 Super Puma until 2013. They will then be replaced with HKP 16 Blackhawk. There are also plans to send a UAV unit with the new Shadow 200 that is being delivered from the US.

With a future tactic, starting 2014, to have very few troops on the ground and then support them with UAV and CAS, I would say that the "armed nation building" and Counter Insurgency will soon be back at pure Counter Terrorism. That is if ANSF is not ready to take up the responsibility for security and safety in Afghanistan.

SvD1, SvD2, DN


  1. Mazar-e Sharif city is already in the hands of ANSF and has been so for some time.

    It is unlikely that Taliban will establish in the city known for its anti-taliban attitude. Nevertheless they probably will attack GIRoA and ISAF in the city from their base areas in the mountains.

  2. @Anonymous: Traditionally the locals in Mazar-i Sharif fear and hate the Talibans after the massacres that occurred 1997.

    But, what is the exact definition of a "taliban" today? I believe there are three major types of "taliban" resistance in Afghanistan.

    - Al Qaida and other foreign fighters who come to fight a Jihad. Fighting US and western troops is good PR for their cause.
    - The "classic" taliban controlled by the Quaretta shura. They want to regain control of Afghanistan and implement Sharia laws.
    - The accidental guerilla. People who just want to throw the foreigners out. They fight because we are there.

    Adding to this there are the drug cartells and the war lords. The drug cartelss want to earn money and as long as the taliban need weapon they will enforce the cultivation of opium and support the drug business. The war lords want to come into power supporting anyone that looks like he will be strong enough to take control of the country.

    Whoever does the bombing may not matter, but the result will be the same.

  3. @Anonymous 10.59: The responsibility has not yet been transferred to ANSF.

    Of course the ANSF has increased their number of personnel in the city to able to take the lead for the security of Mazar-i Sharif.