Tuesday, October 23, 2012

John Nagl vs. Jorge Benitez on AFG

John Nagl around some otherwise good points, put out a rather strange little bit over at WaPo originally titled it seems (by the URL) "The Look of Success in Afghanistan" - but otherwise titled, Not Losing in Afghanistan. Strange in that of all people - I would think he would be producing something different than what reads like a mid-grade PAO working on talking points. Here is what I mean;
The spate of “green on blue” killings of U.S. soldiers by members of the Afghan security forces — some Taliban infiltrators, but mostly disgruntled or frustrated Afghans after a decade of foreign occupation — is a serious threat to our partnership strategy. After a temporary stand-down, to allow reactions to cartoons and videos caricaturing the prophet Muhammad to pass, joint patrols have resumed. We are proceeding with our plan to hand over primary responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
He also says some very incorrect things about Vietnam, but let's ignore that and stick with AFG. Nagl then goes on to say some sensible things about AFG and proposes a most-likely COA that we will probably follow under whoever is in the White House in 2013, based upon what we heard in the debate last night. 

What bothers me the most about the quote above, especially coming from Nagl, are: 
1. Green on Blue predate the "video" and have nothing to do with it - and they don't need non-AFG troops to attack, they are more than happy to kill their own
2. Green on Blue was predicted as being a problem with too rapid of a build-up during Operational Planning for AFG over a half a decade ago. 

Nagl knows this - why put out the above? Is this political positioning, or did he just have a bad day? 
This will allow the United States to accomplish our national security objectives in the region: defeating al-Qaeda; preventing al-Qaeda and its affiliates from establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan; and maintaining our own bases in the region from which to operate drones, manned aircraft and Special Operations forces.
1. al-Qaeda is morphing and growing well outside and inside Central Asia. Defeating al-Qaeda is a long way off, if it can ever really be done in my lifetime.
2. Our national security objectives includes just "bases?"

I'll let Jorge Benitez over at the Atlantic Council take it from here;

As a consequence, several U.S. officers and civilian specialists who have worked with those forces have started to question the wisdom of the 352,000 goal. To them, the obsession with size has been at the root of much that has gone wrong with the Afghan security services. “We’ve built a force that’s simply too big,” said Roger Carstens, a former Special Forces lieutenant colonel who spent two years as a senior counterinsurgency adviser at the NATO headquarters in Kabul.
“When you try to generate that many people that fast, you create leaders without the requisite leadership, maturity or acumen to get the job done. You can’t meaningfully vet anyone. You can’t ensure morale and discipline.” More than a dozen active-duty officers, from majors to generals, who have been involved in training the Afghan army and police over the past two years shared that assessment in recent interviews, upon which this article is based.
Most spoke on the condition of anonymity, because of concern that criticizing long-held U.S. strategy could harm their careers. “We have been obsessed with quantity over quality,” said a Special Forces major who worked alongside Afghan soldiers for a year. “You can only build so many troops to a certain standard. At some point — and we’re long past that — you get to diminishing returns. . . .” ...
Even then, there are no plans to ease up on recruitment. High rates of desertion and low rates of reenlistment mean the army needs to replace about a third of its force each year. “We’ve turned this into a numbers game,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy. “When you’re concerned about numbers, you end up with numbers.”

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