I haven’t blogged about Afghanistan in a while so thought I’d cover some of what I thought may be of interest. There have been a lot of reports of rogue Afghan military and police force members attacking their NATO coalition partners. As of the time I’m writing this, the total stands at 42 killed. What I’ve not seen much of until last week in both a press conference given by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander and in a New York Times article was there have been an even higher number of attacks against the Afghan security forces. There have been 35 attacks this year so far resulting in 53 Afghans killed and 22 wounded.
There is much debate over the source and motivation of the attacks. The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, has claimed they have infiltrated the Afghan security forces and are responsible for the attacks. Last week Afghan government spokesman Aimal Faizi said after investigating all the evidence they believe the attacks are caused by infiltration into the Afghan security forces by foreign spies. At a press conference last week, General John R. Allen, Commander, International Security Assistance Force stated:
“… the reason for these attacks are very complex, and we’re going to look at all of the reasons. But I’ll tell you that I — I’m looking forward to Afghanistan providing us with the intelligence that permits them to come to that conclusion so that we can understand how they’ve drawn that conclusion and we could add that into our analysis. But we’ll — we’ll wait for me to make a definitive statement on that issue until we’ve seen their intelligence in that regard… We don’t have enough data from those who have participated in the attacks to be able to make any kind of a definitive conclusion. We think the reasons for these attacks are complex. Some of them we do believe are about infiltration, impersonation, coercion, but some of them — and we think that’s about 25 percent or so — but some of them are about disagreements, animosity which may have grown between the individual shooter and our forces in general, or a particular grievance.
And so we look at each one separately. We’re trying to understand what may have caused in each case, but also in the aggregate why these attacks have occurred, and why they have increased in number in the last several weeks. May have something to do with Ramadan. It’s a very tough time for these forces, and in particular, this year, Ramadan, as it is known in most of the Muslim world — Ramadan fell in the middle of the fighting season, during some of the harshest time for the climate in much of the region in which we fight.”
As to Taliban involvement, General Allen said:.
“…we believe that there is Taliban infiltration. You know, the truth is that we have, between those who have escaped and those that we’ve killed, the number’s relatively small that we have — that have been captured and then can be interrogated. Some of them have been infiltrators. Many of those have been motivated to undertake these attacks because of personal grievance or radicalization or having become susceptible to extremist ideology…There is a Taliban influence here, and it, as I said, takes several forms. It might be an impersonator, someone who gets into the uniform in order to get into close proximity to the forces. And I might remind everyone that in many cases these impersonators or these infiltrators have, indeed, killed Afghans, as well as they have killed coalition forces. Indeed, the Afghan casualties are higher than ours in this regard.”
When asked how much of the insider attacks could be attributed to the Taliban, General Allen responded “25%”. But emphasized they were still doing evaluation. He said it’s been a busy summer but feels:
“…it’s been a highly successful summer. Coalition and Afghan forces have maintained unrelenting pressure on the insurgents, and we have denied and disrupted their operations and have largely pushed them out of the population centers. We’ve limited their freedom of movement, and we’ve interdicted their logistics. We’ve taken scores of their leaders and fighters off the battlefield, and we’ve systematically separated the insurgents from more and more of the Afghan population.
Insurgent attacks, while still indiscriminate and deadly, are increasingly localized, affecting an ever-shrinking proportion of the Afghan population. The insurgency we face today, while still active, dangerous and capable of inflicting harm, is trying hard to project its strength as its position continues to slowly erode.”
According to a NATO publication, as of May 2012, Afghan forces have the lead for security efforts for 50% of the population. That number will soon rise to 75%. They are using the following criteria for determining when to turn over security responsibility:
• The capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to shoulder additional security tasks with less assistance from ISAF;
• The level of security allowing the population to pursue routine daily activities;
• The degree of development of local governance, so that security will not be undermined as ISAF assistance is reduced; and
• Whether ISAF is postured properly to thin out as ANSF capabilities increase and threat levels diminish.
So, when all is said in done what do the actual statistics show? For that I took a look at the monthly report ISAF puts out. The most recent shows that for the period between May and July of this year enemy initiated attacks (EIAs) were 6% higher than the same period last year. The report attributed it to an earlier ending of the poppy harvest this year. Apparently some of the folks doing that are also the ones involved in attacking the Afghan population and ISAF forces so there is a temporary decrease in the level of violence during harvest time. IEDs remain the weapon of choice for the insurgents; but “executed IED attacks decreased by 13% in Jan – Jul 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.”
There’s no doubt, Afghanistanremains a challenging problem. It’s interesting that so far neither of the Presidential candidates have said too much about it. Pundits say the public is weary of war. I think that is the case but feel if we don’t end the conflict there properly we’ll have to deal with it again. What do I feel is ending it properly? A stable government that is able to defeat and prevent the return of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I don’t think that is an impossible task. There have been reports of fed up villagers in Taliban held areas rising up and taking them on. Think I’ll end here. As always my views are my own.