THE BLOG

Winning The War in Afghanistan One Meeting at a Time

A convoy of buff-clad U.S. Army vehicles is slowly moving through the bazaar of Gardez city in Paktia in Eastern Afghanistan. The final destination is the governor's compound where the weekly security meeting of the Afghan National Security Forces is scheduled on this early August morning. And even though Lt. Colonel Gregory Beaudoin, Commanding Officer of the First Battalion of the 506th Infantry "Band of Brothers" Regiment, might have had the most dramatic and martial entrance at the reigns of this convoy, he will barely say a word during the two-hour long meeting. The Afghan officials at the meeting little acknowledge the American colonel, and they will not request any American aid or support.

Afghans have taken charge again of their own destiny. As of June 18, 2013, the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) handed over complete control of security to Afghan Authorities. Lieutenant General Mark Milley, Commander of the ISAF Joint Command, stated that, "The Afghan security forces are leading the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan, day in and day out."

The American officers present at the security meeting were witness to this change on the ground. Having not been asked to contribute to the discussion, they were silent observers to the intricate issue of Afghan inter-service coordination.

For the deputy governor of Paktia, Abdul Wali Sahi, the Afghan Security Forces have not done enough: "Every day our hearts are being broken by the losses we sustain. We must drive the fear out of the city. The insurgents can walk freely in the city!" According to Afghan intelligence estimates, Paktia is home to about 2000 insurgents split into 120 groups.

In Afghanistan, mobile and permanent checkpoints are relied upon to project security into the local population and are manned by representatives of all of the sub-branches of the security forces. During the security meeting the representatives of the various Afghan security organizations were trying to coordinate operations, share information and initiate a new patrol and checkpoint plan for the city and its vicinities.

The local head of the powerful National Directorate of Security -- Afghanistan's domestic intelligence agency -- General Mohamed Akhtar Ibrahimi, pointed out many deficiencies he has observed and admonished his colleagues from the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Uniformed Police and the Afghan National Civil Order Police, who were gathered in a large office in the well-protected compound. "It is not good that I have to repeat this over and over again!" he complained. "Soldiers are not taking proper care of their equipment, checkpoints are not properly manned, and we still have no night patrols, although insurgents get mostly resupplied at night!"

General Oryakhel, the representative of the Afghan National Uniformed Police, the stepchild of the Afghan Security Forces, but also the unit most exposed to insurgents, took the brunt of the reprimands and admitted that things were far from perfect. He contended that the lack of funds from the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the underperformance of some of his units.

General Wali, an Afghan National Army officer, complained about the difficulty of getting everyone on board: "I tried to organize a joint inspection tour of the checkpoints to divide up responsibility, but only ANCOP and NDS showed up"; this was hotly contested by General Oryakhel and others.

The discussion continued and touched upon vandalism and the mishandling of civilians by Afghan Army Forces in downtown Gardez after one of their fellow soldiers was killed by an IED. At the end of the discussion there was no agreement on joint actions.

Between 2005 to 2011, the United States essentially assumed control, funding around 90 percent of Afghanistan's total security expenditures. NATO countries, including the United States have pledged continued support, but their total military-support payments are set to decrease from a total of $6.6 billion in 2013 to $4.1 billion in 2017. Afghanistan itself will only start officially contributing to the budget in 2015.

Hampering a continuation of Western defensive support is Afghanistan's notorious propensity for corruption. The country ranks 174 out of 176 on the 2012 Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International.

For General Ibrahimi, corruption in the country is a grim status quo. During the meeting he tells the story of a local prosecutor in Gardez who had just released two insurgents after receiving 20000 USD by local insurgent commanders. Rather than a summary removal of the prosecutor, he could only report the incident to his superiors and to the superiors of the respective culprit; his grudging resignation seemed to champion any active resolve.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Lieutenant-Colonel Beaudoin attempting to raise a unified spirit, raised his voice: "You are successful here -- It may not seem like it at times -- but you are!"

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