Afghan transition continues, but how well is it working?

Afghan transition continues, but how well is it working?

The war in Afghanistan appears to be going well, the Pentagon said Sunday, but don’t look too closely and don’t ask too many questions.

You might not like what you learn.

Secretary Panetta issued a statement praising Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s list of new areas that will pass from American to Afghan responsibility over the next phase of the withdrawal, calling it clear evidence that President Obama’s plan is working.

“With more than 100 districts identified, this third phase will be the largest yet,” Panetta said. “When implemented, roughly three-fourths of the Afghan people will live in areas undergoing transition to Afghan security lead.  It means that transition will be occurring in every province in the country, and in every provincial capital. None of this would be possible without the growing strength of the Afghan National Security Forces, which remain essential to our shared goal of an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself.  I commend our troops and those of our ISAF partners for their determination and commitment to this vital mission.”

And proud we are of all of them — but what’s the actual situation on the ground as American and Afghan troops attempt this handover? Dan Lamothe of Marine Corps Times just came back from a circuit with the leathernecks in Sangin, and his report does not give a lot of confidence about the Afghan forces taking over down there.

Wrote Lamothe:

Sgt. Johnathan Cook leads his squad of Marines through the narrow alleys and dusty compounds in this district’s dangerous “Fish Tank” region, facing insurgents armed with grenades, machine guns and improvised explosive devices.

During these patrols, Cook hears similar complaints from the villagers he meets. They’re worried not only about the Taliban, but also the local Afghan authorities. They tell him the Afghan Uniformed Police unit is crooked and violent. Farmers and shepherds accuse the AUP’s officers of beating women and children, levying steep unauthorized taxes, and even kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young boy, Cook said. The allegations make him uneasy about working alongside the AUP on partnered patrols, and whether Afghan villagers will brand Marines guilty by association.

“Whenever they tell me something like that, I always tell them they need to talk to their local government officials,” said Cook, a member of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. “But the people definitely don’t trust them.

Cook’s concerns highlight the dark side to a major piece of the strategy for ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Eventually, the Afghan National Security Forces are expected to provide all security here. Some units, particularly in the once beleaguered Afghan National Army, are now admired and respected by civilians. However, other Afghan troops continue to abuse power, shirk assignments or worse, Marines said.

American commanders inevitably explain that they know Afghan forces will never be the equal of the U.S. Marines or soldiers who’ve done so much of the heavy lifting in this war, but that they’re getting better all the time. Still, in the same way each Marine in Sangin represents the United States of America, each Afghan soldier or policeman represents the central government in Kabul. Especially when, as Lamothe writes, many of the troops serving in Helmand Province are actually from Kabul and speak Dari, not the local Pashto. The more locals those troops alienate, the worse the odds of long-term stability.

The next phase of this story — what happens when the Americans at last transition out of “the lead” — is very tough to predict, but reports like Lamothe’s don’t inspire a lot of optimism. Then again, nobody believes the Afghanistan-as-Switzerland delusion. Local corruption, abuse and who-knows-what-else may be the price that local Afghans must pay for American combat troops to leave. They may even welcome it, much as Washington might welcome supporting the Afghan National Security Forces to the tune of about $40 billion over a decade after years of spending some $2 billion per week on the war.

The cold-hearted reality is that by the Obama administration’s own definitions of its goals, police abuses in Sangin or even continued insurgent trouble-making don’t really matter, so long as they don’t create a shady patch where the fungus of al Qaeda can grow. Local stability and order will be important, but there will also be American special operators zorching around Afghanistan for at least the next ten years, capturing and killing the worst of the bad guys. That may keep Americans at home safe from more terror plots hatched in Afghanistan — which is supposed to be the whole purpose of the war — but the typical Afghan might not see his life improve all that much.

Join the Conversation

I just typed out something quite decent and analytical…and it was deleted by the administrator. What gives? No foul language. Nothing offensive. Look at my rep on here.

It’s not censorship, it’s a glitch. Just send the issue to the admin (help and feedback) last time all my post went online some time after. :)

When you got a large number of there own solders shooting our men and our allies men in the back and killing them. time to leave those creeps to there own fate with the Taliban.

I don’t think that it is safe for the U.S. to leave at all…

The joys of Operation: USELESS DIRT. Investment in this money pit needs to stop.

This is the typical hype from Osama Obama and his minion Pinheada. They are trying to keep the lid from blowing off until after the election. If he is re-elected, which I sincerely doubt, he will then re-ramp putting troops back on the ground and blame it on the republicans. This do nothing president and Leon Pinheada are feather merchants who have never spent a day in the military and have no concept of what we go through. Where’s the surprise?

A country that has a culture so steeped in corruption and abuse of power is never going to advance.

I’m pretty sure we got ourselves into a quagmire. We really can’t leave this place and we surely should get the hell out.

Their culture embraces corruption so where are the folks who won’t opress their neighbors as soon as they gain power? There aren’t enough of them to make the country work. It was a total mess before we arrived and it will be a total mess when we leave.

This is Vietnam all over agine u have corrupt Govt. an army that on paper looks good but inreality is not worth the the paper that was used to make them look good, it took north vietnam 6 weeks after the final troops left that country to take it over and we had a so called peace agrrement with the north that did not include security for the south and now we will get out of afganastand thank God, and it will take the talaban no more than 6 months to take back the country after we leave, so what have we accomplished? What have we shed our Blood for? only to have the talaban back in control.

Nicely shot, strongly scripted with an excellent interview to make the critical communications points. Another quiet success as transformation and transition continues in Afghanistan because of the efforts of LT Andrews and so many others. Well told story-and thanks for your efforts!

“Quagmire” the “stans” have been this way since Alexander the great. What make anybody think that they can be changed in just a few years? The only rational thing you can say is how soon can we cut or losses and leave. The US cannot afford honor it’s commitments to it’s own citizens, and it obviously cannot afford things like ~4 billion fraudulent tax refunds to illegal immigrants. As a country, we have paid for all the wars in recent times (Korea, Vietnam, the gulf war, etc.) by printing money. The oil situation has also drained our nations wealth. Then we have billionaires that on a percentage basis, pay less tax than many others with far, far lower income and wealth. And you wonder why we have economic problems?

How well is it working? Swimmingly, according to the glorious leader.


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