Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Open Your Operational Planning Hymnal Please ....

Is it possible that Afghanistan may turn out some shade of OK where we don't have a mark of shame, again, on our conduct of a campaign? Sure. That might happen.  If it does, will it have got there because of sound military planning, and the political support needed to create the conditions for success? No, not really. That all fell apart a bit over four years ago.

As we march towards our summer'14 retrograde, we need to watch with a clear eye. Be ready to grasp hold of a firm straw if it drifts past, build something quickly if we can - but not to have false hope on partial observations of selected viewing.

I hate to be Miss Mary Darkcloud (well, not really - it is kind of a hobby), but everyone needs to keep their wits about them as we move towards the scheduled withdraw from Afghanistan this year.

Depending upon the Operational Planning confession you adhere to, there are in roughly decreasing hierarchy; Mission, End State, Objective, and Decisive Points & Decision Points scattered along the progressing Phases along your Lines of Operation that outline your Tasks and - if you blend in some EBO concepts in to your confession as I do - Desired Effects.

You can have wonderful success on individual Objectives, Decisive Points, and Tasks. You can even achieve wonderfully positive results in your Desired Effects - you may even meet one or more of your Objectives, but ... that does not mean that you will get even close to your End State or Mission.

In general, if you tap-out before you reach your End State, you will never have achieved your Mission. If you never achieve your Mission, you have not achieved victory as originally planned. You can of course, revise your Plan to change anything and everything - but when you reverse engineer your Plan to lowered expectations, you are just covering your exit - that is all.

Now that a few weeks of class is complete in a few sentences (all you Operational Planning trolls, get back in your hole - no nit-pick'n the Cliff's Notes; URR I'm talking to you), let's look at this little bright pebble in the pan;
Donald Sampler, who directs the Afghanistan office for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a House subcommittee Thursday that 900,000 Afghan children were enrolled in school in 2001, virtually none of them girls. Today, the number is approaching 8 million, and about one-third are girls.

During the same period, life expectancy has risen from 42 years to 62. The child mortality rate has fallen from 172 to 97 per 1,000 live births.

Electricity now reaches 18 percent of Afghans. Land line and cell towers provide phone service to 90 percent of the population. The telecom industry provides about 100,000 local jobs.
This is all very true and wonderful ... but, well let's review the ISAF Mission Statement;
In support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ISAF conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.
There are three parts here.

Part 1: "...to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency"
Part 2: "...support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)"
Part 3: "...facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development"

1.a. Capability?
After more than a decade of war, the Taliban are a long way from being defeated and have been growing in strength. Many of Nato's territorial gains are by no means irreversible.
1.b. Will? I don't even need to quote or link to anything. No one ... and I mean no one of any seriousness is arguing that we have impacted the will of the Taliban one bit. As a matter of fact, after President Obama's DEC09 West Point Speech, it has only grown.

If the troop surge of 2010 was successful in stopping the Taliban's momentum in the south, it did not succeed in defeating the militants, especially in the north and centre where the alliance is thinner on the ground.
2. ANSF? Let's stick with the linked BBC article.
Afghan forces remain inconsistent, but those who train them say the best are as good as any army in a developing country.

But many people still question how the army would fare against the insurgents without help from Nato. Only time will tell.
I agree. Time will tell, but they need more seasoning and continued support to have a chance - hopefully more than we gave to South Vietnam and the Royal Cambodian Army.

3. Governance and development: that takes two. The government of Afghanistan has to ask for it, and there has to be someone there to offer to help. I hope so, but hope isn't all that helpful.

Let's go back to the opening quote. Everything that USAID has to say is wonderful and nice - and all of us who served in AFG are glad to see and read it, but ... but ... that is only 1/2 of 1/3.

It is just a desired effect, and depending on your Operational Planning confession, perhaps just a Measure of Effectiveness. That is all. Not an End State, not a Mission. 

No, the concrete is not set. The cake is not baked, and unless we have significantly revised the OPLAN, good odds that along most of the Lines of Operations, we have plenty of Decisive Points that will not be met prior to this summer. Risk increases, and we will have to rely on, yes - hope.

No comments: