Constructive Criticism from a Counter-Insurgent Supporter

I support whatever the hell we’re calling the war these days.  I support the troops.  I support the mission.  I served on active duty in my youth and I’ve actually been to Afghanistan.  I respect and admire and envy our Police Mentoring Teams


I respectfully disagree with COL McMahon.

We just added the responsibility for developing —
really building from scratch a police force about a year and a half ago.

If by “we” the good Colonel means ARSIC, that’s likely true, but building an Afghan Police Force should have been a fundamental element of Internal Defense and Development since November 13, 2001. Somebody screwed that pooch. My perception has been managed to blame Kamerad, but anybody who really thought he was up to the job overestimated his abilities and enthusiasm for the task.

We are also procuring for them and will train them on the up- armored humvees.  Actually, the state of the art of what we have is what we’ll field to them.

The more we try to make them clones of American motorized infantry the wronger we are. Bernard Fall warned us about road-bound, over-motorized, hard-to-supply battle forces. Unarmored pickup trucks are what they can keep running. The more M1114’s and MRAP’s we bestow upon them the more dependent they are on Pakistani POL and the American military-industrial complex.

But real good story on the army. Let me turn to the police, because they’re quite a bit farther behind at every level, from the ministry of interior level all the way down to the police in the districts. The police have never been very strong in Afghanistan.  They’ve certainly been second fiddle to the warlords’ armies. And in fact, the police force that exists right now is a vestige of the warlord armies. The warlords, when they threw the Soviets out, essentially occupied the area, had their militia, which they called the army, and we’ve pretty much gotten rid of, and then they put other people into the police. We have not gotten rid of that yet, and we’re working very hard to fix that now.

So you have a police force that is very much local, and it’s also very much tied to the power brokers in the local areas and subject to their whims, not to the whims of the people or to the national government. Those are the things that we’re trying to fix right now. There’s corruption, there is — it’s just not a good story right now.

We’re working on really two levels to try to fix this. First level is to try to reform the Ministry of Interior headquarters. It’s still designed essentially in the Soviet style, a very, very centralized control, which doesn’t work in a society where there is no centralized control. This is very much a decentralized society, so they’ve got exactly the wrong organization.  It’s also been accused, in some cases rightfully so, of being extremely corrupt itself. And in fact, some people have said they don’t want a good police department because that will mess up their ability to accept graft and that kind of thing.

So we’re working to reorganize and then — and fix the headquarters so that they can be an effective management headquarters for a national police force.

Then we’re also working at the low level, the grassroots level of the police to reform them. The problem with the low-level policemen is exactly what I mentioned earlier, that they are the vestige of the warlord society. So they believe their allegiance is to whoever hired them, which includes going out and collecting illegal taxes if that person tells them to out and collect illegal taxes, which includes going into another district and bothering another tribe if that’s what that boss tells them to do.

So those are the things that we’re dealing with, in addition to an incredibly low literacy rate among them, which makes it harder for them to really understand what they’re supposed to do. So we’re executing a program called focused district development, which works at the district level, takes a district at a time, totally revamps them, recruits new people, new policemen — ideally nationally, we’re working on that as we speak — getting new leaders for them, giving them new equipment, sending them all together to a training center where they go through eight weeks of basic training and some advanced training on policing techniques, then put them into their district and have a police mentor team of coalition policemen and military folks as well to stay with them and bring them up to speed and then make sure they continue to stay on the good side.

We also are building a special police force called the Afghan National Civil Order Police. We call them ANCOPs. The ANCOPs receive 16 weeks of training, so they’re much better trained than the average policeman. They’re all volunteers. They get paid a little bit more by virtue of being higher rank than the average policemen and they have better equipment than the average policemen. So those — we’re about — we built about 10 battalions of ANCOP and extremely rave reviews so far of how they do out in the field.

Because they’re so good, we’re using them in conjunction with the focused district development program by putting them into the districts while the police are pulled out. So a couple weeks before you would send the new district police to the training center, these ANCOP unit — an ANCOP unit goes in, they establish what right policing is. And then eight weeks later when the district police come back in, the people now have an expectation of what police are supposed to do. Again, very, very good reviews on how ANCOP is doing and how it’s setting the stage for the police to come back in.

We’re in the third cycle of the focused district development, so it’s still early to guarantee that it’s the right way, but so far all indications are that it is exactly the way to reform the police here. And we’re definitely going to continue it.

There are 365 districts. And we are on number 23 now, so this has a long way to go. But it’s going to take a very deliberate program to fix the police here, by far the major problem.

23 down. 342 districts to go. I’m sorry, sir, but the clock will run out at this rate. If America and NATO is going to force Western-style notions of law, justice, good government and Westphalian nation-state monopolies on the legitimate use of force on people who have never bought-in to such concepts, they are going to have to quit asking and start telling.

How a Westphalian nation-state polices itself is a reflection of its dominant culture, history, traditions, and mores. Afghanistan has never really been a functioning Westphalian nation-state. We seem to be arrogant enough to try to turn them into one but not arrogant enough to impose a colonial administation and ex-pat officered constabulary upon them. The will to colonize Afghanistan and impose good government upon them isn’t there and likely never will be.

My gripes are all above COL McMahon’s echelon to resolve, and my beef is not with him personally. He is the strategic communicator designated to give me warm and fuzzies, which, supportive as I am, I’m not getting. This is due to deficiencies in the product that salesmanship can’t fix.

The way I see it,

Karzai has outlived his usefulness.

All the caveated contingents need to man up or leave, they’re a drain on the supply system.

The Taliban in Afghanistan is 95% ethnic Pashtun. Their auxiliaries and supporters and aiders and abettors are Pashtuns. Pashtun Irregulars, in many cases turned Taliban or former war lord types, are going to be more valuable in defeating the Taliban than politically correct, multicultural, ethnically
balanced MRAP-mounted motorized infantry.

Start a real Chieu Hoi program, to replace the half-vast PTS.

Pashto-fluent Human Terrain Teams are more important than PMT’s/ETT’s, who should have a higher priority than trigger-pullers.

Only so much sinews of war can come up from Karachi through Chaman and Torkham. Fewer non-indig trigger-pullers, more non-indig trainers and mentors.

Not much is going to change until after regimes change in Washington and Kabul.

More on the ANP:

Seconded to the Afghan Constabulary
“We don’t need to make these cops as good as the 82nd Airborne,”
The police in Shahjoy no longer resemble a “posse,”
No Sons of Afghanistan Need Apply
Maintiens le Droit
Abdul Hakim Jan — Cop, Alokozai Arbakai, Militia Chief
Focus District Development
CLC’s Good, Arbakai Bad
The Law in RC West
In a counterinsurgency environment the best force to use is generally taken to be indigenous security force
The Law West of the Hindu Kush



Filed under IW, The Forgotten War

14 responses to “Constructive Criticism from a Counter-Insurgent Supporter

  1. Tyler Durden

    “Pashto-fluent Human Terrain Teams are more important than PMT’s/ETT’s, who should have a higher priority than trigger-pullers.”

    Thats a really nice daydream.

    Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

    I just happened to be in Omaha Neb for business last month and stopped by the university library as they (supposedly) have an interesting Afghan book collection.

    While in the coffee shop in the library I ran into some members of the much talked about HTS program who were up there to get some training from university staff as they have some kind of afghan program at the Omaha University.

    Most of these guys are neither social-scientists, nor anthropologists nor fluent in the local languages. It sounds like they are hiring your basic breed of researchers and not regional experts.

    One person who was far, far above average in the HTS program (and a regional expert) was recently killed over there.

    At least the HTS program sounded good on paper.

    Some comments from my deployed peers seem to indicate that HTS is not producing the quantity or quality of info that was advertised.

    Your mileage may vary.


  2. HTT’s sounded like a good idea when I heard about them. Never been on one. Never knew anybody on one.

    Special Forces essentially had their own, ad hoc, amateur anthropologists marrying in to the Montagnard tribes in Vietnam. Total imersion of military personnel in the culture of the Foreign Internal Defense Host Nation can be quite a sacrifice. If civilians can’t be hired who already have such cultural knowledge then either the idea must be given up or the military must yet again do what no one else will.

  3. This is a perfect slot for foreign auxiliaries to fill up. If the US needs language skills, then do what Rome did when they needed good cavalry and horse archers. Recruit them from the local territories that excel in that skill and area.

  4. We had some fairly decent auxiliaries in the ASF, but we disbanded them.

  5. The extreme dangers of centralized government had to be dealt with both after the Revolution and during the Civil War.

    The fact that the US won’t bring other people into the US Constitution, but expecting foreign peoples to adopt a “centralized” system of law and governance, is woefully foolish.

    Local vs federal issues were hashed out over America’s centuries. For another nation to succede, they must gain direct access to such fruits, meaning copy the US Constitution and government over to Afghanistan. But they don’t do that. Instead, they want Afghanistan to become centralized like all Western nations.

    It is ironic in a sense that President Bush said these democracies won’t look like us. They never really carried that out to the correct logical conclusion. If they are to become centralized nations “unified” under one banner, then they will need to become just like us because our way is the only right way to unify states and disparate territories. If they don’t want these foreigners to be like us, then don’t try to consolidate power under Maliki or Karzai. Let them deal with it via local terms and if they can’t deal with the locals, then the locals should have no reason to sacrifice their welfare for the central government’s prestige.

  6. My biggest heartburn with the way the Americans are molding the ANP is that we ignore local, district, and provincial irregulars and auxiliaries. We don’t even have a federal police force to model them after. We are arrogant enough to attempt to impose a Western-style national police force on Afghanistan, but not arrogant enough to appoint a Governor General and American judges and an American officer as Chief of the ANP.

    The reasons we ignore them is previous difficulties with warlords and militias, and nervousness in Kabul about anybody else having legitimate recourse to force.

    The Taliban is still around 90% ethnic Pashtun, and Pashtun irregulars would really be good to have, but Karzai is not secure enough to tolerate any such forces.

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  8. The reasons we ignore them is previous difficulties with warlords and militias, and nervousness in Kabul about anybody else having legitimate recourse to force.

    Sounds very similar to General Casey’s treatment of non-government armed forces in Iraq.

    The central government or Coalition forces either could not or would not provide the force protection necessary for the safety of Sunnis and Shia, and they disarmed neighborhood watches that could at the same time. None of this actually decreases people’s demand for militias and the fracturing of civic order or unified rule of law.

  9. The GoI hated the Anbar Awakening. MNF-I made soothing noises. The Marines kept being no better friend, no worse enemy and turned the tribes.

    Both the GoIRA and CSTC-A oppose Sons of Afghanistan, and there aren’t enough Marines there to force the issue.

    The Brits wanted to set up a camp for turned Taliban and Karzai had a cow.

  10. Not familiar with those two acronymns

    Both the GoIRA and CSTC-A oppose Sons of Afghanistan, and there aren’t enough Marines there to force the issue.

  11. Not familiar with those two acronymns

  12. Goverment of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

  13. Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan

  14. Pingback: Civil Defense Forces « Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group