Afghanizing COIN

No civilian in the development world really likes to talk about military issues. At best people will mention the development/security nexus, or the need to disarm violent militias that don’t respect human rights and good governance. Most NGO workers, UN personnel, and other peace-building experts didn’t go to Afghanistan to solve military issues anyway. That’s what the army is for, and frankly, no one really wants to hear about what they do. Coalition forces might be in Afghanistan to fight the Global War on Terror, but the rest of the well-intentioned international community is there to build a strong democratic state. In this world, magic words include good governance, local ownership, and capacity-building, not COIN and kinetic actions.

Yet, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Afghan government and its allies have been conducting a counterinsurgency campaign for years now. That’s the paradox of post-conflict Afghanistan: it is NOT post-conflict. The international community is trying to build a state in a country that it is pretty much at war. Free and fair elections, freedom of speech,  and a strong independent civil society are highly desirable goals, but none of these things will be achieved without a strong national army that is able to defend the country from internal and external threats. Building a national army is part of building a state. Given that the Afghan state will soon have to take care of its own security (for the most part), building a strong Afghan National Army (ANA) might be the only way to preserve what has been achieved since 2001/2002.

The question remains as to whether COIN is the way to go. Improving law and order, governance, and the government’s legitimacy sounds all good on paper. In practice, it has proved rather difficult to implement (not only in Afghanistan). It is even harder when foreign forces are the ones in charge of doing it. Many an observer believes that it might actually fuel the conflict. Even if it were to be proven that American-led counterinsurgency might actually work in Afghanistan, anyone knows that COIN requires a long term commitment that neither the U.S. nor any other NATO state is able to provide. COIN is too expensive, both financially and politically, for the leader of a democratic state to be 100% sure that his/her country’s armed forces will be able to fight in a remote country like Afghanistan (at least from a Western point of view) for the next 20 years or so.  ANA soldiers (along with local militias) will now be the ones in charge of doing counterinsurgency. It remains to be seen whether the ANA will be strong enough to keep the Taliban at bay.

About Afghanopoly

I am an Assistant Professor of peace and conflict studies at Radboud University's Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM). I completed my PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University and Sciences Po under the supervision of Will Reno and Bertrand Badie. Among other things, I teach students about the politics of international intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere. My research focuses on the political strategies that Afghan strongmen use to consolidate and legitimize their authority. I am particularly interested in how these actors manage to conduct their own forms of international relations. My field research brings me in contact with Afghan community leaders, politicians, diplomats and foreign military officers.
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65 Responses to Afghanizing COIN

  1. IvN says:

    The ANA has a difficult task to fulfill, fighting the Taliban. As is said, we have to wait to see what the ANA will achieve in the future. But seeing it from their position today I do not think that the ANA has a bright future. What essential is for the ANA is unity. But Afghanistan is so fragmented and all those pieces got a place in the ANA. These different groups has to overcome the difference and be all Afghans. But the basis of the Afghan nationality is weak, they do not have a strong history to build on. They belong to their own group, more than to the ANA. That change in mind needs time.
    Beside the differences is the goal clear: fighting the Taliban. But the ANA is not the army as we know it. There is a lack of knowledge. Teaching them is hard because of the languages and cultural differences.
    Building the national army takes, even as COIN, time. With enough time they can learn, train and work together. But they have to stand alone too early. It is up to them to fight the Taliban. They have to because the more time you give the Taliban the stronger they can become. So time is a crucial point but can not be changed. So the ANA has to do it with what they have and hope that it will be enough.

    • Volkan says:

      I agree on your point that the ANA has not a bright future, but i don’t really agree with all your arguments. You point at the lack of unity, weak nationalism (history to build on) and their loyalty to their ethnic(militant) groups. But i don’t think that the nationality is so weak as you think, at least i don’t think thats the main problem. The main problem is that the ANA forces are not committed to their country, but see it as a job where they can earn money.

      I also don’t think that the ANA will become a strong force to fight against Taliban, even without mentioning corruption and loyalty. There is absolutely need to chance minds. I think the Taliban thinking has got extremer and got wider interest, because of the western interference. People need to see that the Taliban is not the best for their country. For example in the judicial system, the Taliban have proved to be more succesfull than the central government. That’s a big challenge to show people the contrary.

      • johu90 says:

        I think everyone will agree that the ANA lacks motivation and skills to effectively conduct a COIN. When the ANA is left by itself I think conducting a successful COIN will be a lot more challenging than it is today. But I disagree with you about your point that the ANA lacks commitment to their country, the Afghan people have shown a lot of commitment for their country throughout history. I think the main problem is the lack of legitimacy of the central government. It’s the central government the ANA isn’t committed to. Although Karzai was democratically elected I can imagine that the common ANA soldier has very little commitment to a president who is chosen by a democratic system which is imposed by foreigners.

      • Ferdinand says:

        I believe this is a huge difficulty for the ANA. Are they really commited to their country and do they have enough power to make a difference when the International forces leave. Than it shows how commited they are. It frightens me that the Taliban can apperently solve juddical problem more efficiently. A COIN opperations should focus on such things. Since that is a key point of a society and to remain order. I understand that power is a key point to enforce law and a judical system, but it should also be integrated with that power. So that it will make sure that not one person can draw all power towards him for example.

    • sergiu says:

      meanhwile in afghanistan ..

      • Dnl says:

        What do you mean with this, if I may ask?

      • sergiu says:

        Nothing..just to take a note that we are writting and thinking strategies about Afghanistan and meanwhile this is what is really happening. (In the video) so we are faaaaar from the reality and little hope is reserved for us…it’s a ironic and grotesc thinking about reality.we laugh about what we should cry 😉

    • sergiu says:

      Meanwhile in Afghanistan…

  2. Nigina says:

    I agree with IvN that the ANA doesn’t have a bright future with the current composition of the army, because of the fragmentation and individuals from different groups. People from different groups always remain faithful to their own group and act in their own interests. This makes it difficult to work together, which makes the army less powerful. Additionally, nowadays people go into the military for money and not because they want to fight for Afghanistan. Despite the problems the army has, it can still be possible for the ANA to be successful in the future. Afghanistan used to have quite a strong army, when there was military service in the country. If the military service is reintroduced in Afghanistan, then these problems can be solved. Because people are obliged to join the national army, the paycheck will become less important. Besides that, there is also less fragmentation through the involvement of the whole country. In this way there is a better national army that can protect the state and this is a good start to rebuild Afghanistan.

    • Volkan says:

      Do you really think that it is possible to succesfully introduce a military service in Afghanistan? I don’t think that’s possible. There are problems with loyalty to warlords/ ethnic groups and it will be hard to assure that people will actually join the ANA to do their military service at all.

      • Nigina says:

        Yes you are right; it will be very difficult because of the corruption and the legitimacy of the government in Afghanistan. People will join the Taliban instead of the ANA by a variety of reasons. First of all they see the Taliban as a powerful force because they fight with dedication to achieve their goal. Secondly, it is difficult for the US military to educate and train the people who participate in the national army. Most of them are illiterate and not motivated to fight for Afghanistan, but they join the ANA for the paycheck. There is also a language barrier between the US military and the military soldiers of the ANA. Overall this gives the ANA a bad image. Thirdly, in some areas the Taliban has more power than the government which enables them to threaten the people to join the ANA. In addition, I agree with your point that the Taliban thinking has got extremer and has got wider interest, because off the western interference. Even though they do not have exactly the same purpose as the Taliban, they will join them to show that they are against the ‘westernization’.

    • Simone says:

      I’ve noticed that a lot of people talk about fragmentatization, lack of unity and lack of national feelings that will cause the ANA to be unsuccessful. But I think that we are missing an important point here: We need to keep in mind that there are different circumstances, we have the ‘luxury’ to think and act out of ideology and commitment to something, but for a lot of Afghan people I think basic needs is what comes first on their minds. People don’t always join the army for national feelings, but more often for personal interest as to having a job and an income. And the same counts for joining the Taliban. It used to be a group of hard-core ideologically driven people, but more recently this has shifted to people joining for other reasons, for opportunities or out of frustration.

      Besides this, I want to acknowledge that Afghan peoples’ first loyalty lies with their ethnic group or tribe, not with their fellow Afghans in general, but there has never been a situation in which some kind of ethnic group or tribe wanted to seperate itself from the rest of Afghanistan. There loyalty may not be on the national level, but they do reckognize the profits of being one country as a whole.

      My point of what I’ve written above is that people often act out of practical reasons
      and I believe we need to take this line of thinking some further.

      So I believe there are possibilities for the ANA becoming a legitimate force against the Taliban forces, but it should not become big and legitimate first for people to want to join and obey it. it should first become preferable to join and obey this force and than it will become big and legitimate. What would make the ANA a good alternative and give it a chance in doing counterinsurgency would be to make the people believe they are actually better of with ANA doing this, they would have personal gain from this situation in comparance to another possible situations. if this is not the case and Taliban would be a better alternative, people will choose for this one. So first convince people that army is the better option and is here to stay (what was the tactic of american intervience for counter insurgency in the first place) than people will join the ANA. Than they have a chance to become big and legit. And than they will convince the people that weren’t convinced for the practical reasons, with their legitimity of a big powerful army.

  3. Sarah93 says:

    COIN as was stated in the original post does not seem to be a priority for those both in Afghanistan and in the international community as a whole. It is very rarely discussed however, its success is paramount in building a successful Afghan state in the future. A strong national army but also other institutions such as a strong police force is required to carry out a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan however, its future post-2014 remains extremely uncertain. The 2014 dates for the withdrawal of foreign forces is fast approaching which leaves little time for the ANA to reach a high enough standard to carry out effective counterinsurgency un-aided by foreign forces. The ANA also still currently lacks a sense of unity and remains ethnically divided while many Afghans simply enlist for the pay packet at the end of the month, which is higher than many other jobs in Afghanistan, instead of out of a sense of national pride or a genuine interest in the military or in being a soldier. There also seems to be a disconnect between the Afghans being trained and the foreign troops training them with many not being able to speak Dari or Pashto or any other Afghan language while the Afghan approach or view of a national army seems to be different to that of the foreign forces. It could be another example of where the international community is trying to create an institution which is foreign and not tailored to Afghanistan leading to unrealistic expectations from the international community and an ineffectiveness on the part of the ANA. A successful counterinsurgency campaign is paramount to the success of a future Afghan state however a successful counterinsurgency campaign is reliant on the successful building of an Afghan National Army which currently looks a bit precarious.

  4. njs2184 says:

    I believe that Volkan poses an exceptionally intriguing question. “Do you really think that it is possible to succesfully introduce a military service in Afghanistan?” It has been clear throughout this discussion that the ANA stands on shaky ground, at best. An army that lacks the proper motivation and incentives is destined to be inadequately prepared to contain and manage a force, such as the Taliban, that is much more driven. If the soldiers of the AMA are only there for the paycheck, as opposed to the desire to protect the country, then the army will crumble during trying times. Another point that has been previously mentioned is that of the loyalty of the soldiers to their local ethnic groups and militias. Therefore, if the soldiers of the AMA act more loyally to these region and ethnic leaders, wouldn’t they serve as greater assets in these separate capacities? The only problem is that of abandoning the centralized army. My question is, if these regional actors are able to adequately protect their respective areas, then is it worth trying to adopt a more Afghanised method of using non-central army divisions to fight for the Afghan state?

    • I.K.92 says:

      njs2184, I would like to react on your question. The military would probably have more loyalty to the people and the region they protect when they are connected with those people and region. However, I have one critical point to make.
      In this discussion it is mentioned that building a national army in Afghanistan is impossible because of the fragmentation within Afghanistan. This is a useful and correct comment, but I think there is another way one can look at it. In my opinion, building a national army could also improve the unity within the country. In different elements of the Afghan society the focus is layed on the differences between people. I would think that building a national army could fight against this fragmentation. In the ANA all different people and groups become united. When people have to work together with their rivals, it probably causes problems, but it could also unite them, because they have to fight for the same goals. Maybe when they fight the same enemy, they will stop fighting together. The ANA is could actually bring unity in stead of fragmentation.
      In my opinion, building regional armies in stead of a national army would only lay more focus on the ethnical and regional differences. In my view, building different regional armies would probably lead to more fragmentation.

      • S.V. says:

        I.K.92, I’m not sure if I agree with your views regarding the effect of regional armies on the fragmentation within Afghanistan. I think that building a national army in Afghanistan doesn’t have the unifying effect you described in your comment. It actually creates a lot of ethnic tensions, especially between the northern Tajiks and the southern Pashtuns, and it seems to me that this strategy can be just as divisive as forming regional armies.

        Despite recruiting efforts the ANA is still dominated by the Tajiks while the insurgents, the Taliban, largely consist of Pashtuns and this stalemate is incredibly hard to break. The legitimacy of both the ANA and the Taliban are partially dependent on ethnicity which makes it impossible for either of them to successfully govern Afghanistan as a whole. An implementation of njs2184’s plan to use regional actors to secure their respective regions might be more sustainable. Locals have a lot to gain by establishing law and order and will be highly motivated because of their investment in the region. Involving local power-holders makes it easier to create a local army that is representative for the ethnic composition of a region and it might be easier to find shared goals as well.

        Successfully establishing a national army could play an important role in the long-term state-building process but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be a realistic goal to pursue in a country that doesn’t have a shared national identity and is essentially still involved in a civil war. Presently the formation of a national army seems to undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan government, fueling the insurgency, and thus making it more difficult to realize rudimentary security objectives.

      • 2ways says:

        What probably is a better idea is to raise the sponsoring of Private Military and Security Companies. We’ve tried it out with the ANA for so long now that it is time to give up this strategy. As is pointed out in the documentary below placed by MerelR (This is what winning looks like) the ANA consists largely out of corrupt, often addicted, some even child-molesting soldiers with no sense of responsibility for their country. A massive decrease in power of the ANA will probably follow as soon as we leave due to the assumption that people desert directly (to the Taliban). Therefore PMSC’s can provide a (temporarily) better solution. These forces can guarantee safety to key places and buildings due to the fact that they don’t have additional tasks besides guarding that building, so they can focus on their job more than the army. Further positive aspects about these forces are that they get less media attention and therefore operate with less restrictions and they are cheaper because you can hire them when needed, you don’t need to pay salary all the time. Besides that these PMSC’s consist mostly out of local trained Afghans, so they have a better understanding of the people and local traditions. Following this they probably also have a better sense of who’s Taliban than a Tajik from the North placed in Southern Pashtun lands. Additionally the local civilians may trust these PMSC’s more than the army, but of this I’m not sure because I don’t know how corrupt these forces are. It is at least worth a try to place a whole lot of PMSC forces in Afghanistan because this ‘united/uniting’ ANA failed miserably. PMSC’s can even stay long after US and ISAF forces are gone because they have no time limits, making it difficult for the Taliban to become very powerful in the nearby future.

      • I.K.92 says:

        S.V. I understand it is very difficult and hard to unify all those different peoples with different values, costums etcetera. The point I tried to make is that people could react differently when they identify themselves with different groups. A great example of this phenomenom is the example of football clubs. Regional football clubs fight against eachother, but when matches are played at the international level, the country is united against another country. So identity can change. Identification with a regional group could change in identification with a national group. I understand lots of objections could be made of this statement, but I think it is an interesting idea to think about.

  5. Bart says:

    I think the future of Afghanistan without foreign troops will be a future where the Taliban will soon take over control again and the land will become fragmented again. The ANA lacks a few of the most important factors for a strong national army: discipline, knowledge, commitment and manpower. These things have already been mentioned in previous the comments. As the post already said a strong ANA is the only way to keep the Taliban at bay and thus to create stability in the state. One big problem with the ANA that Nigina also mentioned is in my opinion the image of the ANA. The ANA has a very weak image and this contributes to the lack of discipline, knowledge, commitment and manpower. I think it is important for Afghanistan to change the view of the ANA. If people think it is a strong national army that can withstand the Taliban and that there is honor in joining the ANA it will become much more effective. This is easier said than done, I know, but by a pro ANA campaign that emphasizes the need and usefulness of the ANA I think this might be achievable. In other words making propaganda for the ANA.

    • sergiu says:

      COIN, ANA & co. against who?

      Against a state that was never built ? I think we should look at the Afghan state, through European lens. If we study how long lasting states were built in Europe, we find out that the history was full of situations simmilar of those in Afghanistan.
      High fragmentation, loyality to one leader of a small territory, long lasting wars, drugs and barbarian taking over, fighting for resources ,economic imperialism , leaders like Napoleon,Bismarck,Cavour, etc etc.

      If we look through the history we find out that for each state there are several stepts to pass,before becoming a national state.(and maybe last like that)
      Generally speaking there is always a part that take’s over. War for unity is what is missing in Afghanistan. After there is a nationalism period, where the concept of nation is build among the people. Flags, constitution, statues, rule of law, money, institutions, external rapresentation, border controll and an increasing economy (if not for all, for the strongest should be enough to maintain order). Once you have that, you can build a strong army, devoted,united and capable.

      At what level are we now with Afghanistan? How is possible to build a state without passing through all the stepts? Who in history has passed from a rural society, fragmentated and without resources, to a national strong and lasting state?All this in 20 years…

      Maybe a fragmentated Afghanistan could be a small step for peace and controll. Splitting the area could enforce the local powers and the local army. But in the same time that leaves space for corruption and a continuous threat from a Taliban takeover. Fragmentation is good at local level and bad for the nation. National army is weak at local level against warlords and Taliban. All this lead to one conclusion, war is not over and there is still to come for the Afghan society.

  6. Nic.Cage says:

    I think the problem right at the beginning was not having an exit strategy for Afghanistan. The plan at the time was to simply overthrow the Taliban-led regime without a clear strategy to replace it. It’s hard not to draw a comparison with the war in Vietnam, a war that also suffered from a clear lack of an exit strategy. Actually winning that war had proven to be (nearly) impossible, and a huge strain on resources. The US should have learned its lesson from the Vietnamese war, that starting a war without a clear exit strategy is costly (both in lives and money), and in the end extremely difficult.

    • ML93 says:

      I think there was a distinct exit strategy. ISAF forces would provide security and development until the Afghan state was strong enough to provide these things themselves. The problem with this, however, is that the NATO members never had the resources, money and political will to accomplish this. Because of this lack of commitment by NATO, they try to leave Afghanistan without accomplishment of their mission. They now try to leave as soon as possible to please their citizens at home.
      This might indeed seem as a second Vietnam. Perhaps in a way this is a second Vietnam: A war fought by countries (NATO) without the support of its populations. ISAF could’ve been successful if only we had the time, money and the will to do it.

  7. njs2184 says:

    I believe that the NY Times article posted above offers an interesting viewpoint on the argument of the legitimacy and capability of the ANA. The piece talks about many of the same downfalls of the national security program in Afghanistan that have been previously mentioned. However, the article also seems to shed a small amount of optimism on a topic that is ridden with ideas of imminent failure. It points out that the ANA “mostly held their own” during attacks as well as cutting down on the number of assassinations as this fighting season is coming to a close. However, this “success” did not come cheap, because the casualty and abandonment rate were rather high. It mentions that there are plenty of troops willing to fill the vacancies (due to high unemployment), but that means that one third of your national army is new and inexperienced. The most interesting part of this article is the very last quote. It is discussing how the presence of the Taliban is still easy to see in the smaller, more rural areas (especially in the south), when a US army commander says, “Maybe the best outcome would be Taliban in the villages and the government in the district centers.” This seems to be counterintuitive, but could it work? If the Taliban had the ability to reclaim the villages, without regaining the cities, would the ANA still be able to keep the insertion at bay? To me, it seems unlikely that the ANA, without foreign assistance, would be able to keep the Taliban out of the cities when they have more footholds at the local level. Regardless, it is an interesting idea that may become a reality in the near future after the US armed forced have left.

    • Peteroski says:

      Those were exactly the quotes I wanted to comment on with this article. But I want to add something about the fact that the American military comments that it is easy to find new recruits with the unemployment rate. It really sounds to me that these people are used as cannonfodder with the high casualty rate. A comment like that would be unacceptable if it was concerning the US military.

      Furthermore I wanted to comment that the overall idea of COIN is good, as said in the article. It is a battle to get the people on your side, for a full victory on the countryside and the cities. And I think the ANA would be the only way to reach the countryside. A strong protecting army (it isn’t that as of now) without foreign intervention. It would be the only way to get trust with the older conservatives. However the truly hardliners would still feel the ANA is American influenced.

      • Afghanopoly says:

        I am also on the same page regarding this article. I find this quote (“Maybe the best outcome would be Taliban in the villages and the government in the district centers.”) particularly interesting, if only from a theoretical point of view. In fact, it is indeed a very plausible scenario, at least in the short term.

  8. E.G. says:

    The ANA has a difficult job when the coalition forces leave. That is keeping the Taliban at bay. I don’t think that the ANA is ready to do this job on its own. If you think about all the diversity in Afghanistan and the ANA and all the different loyalties and incentives, it’s nearly impossible to build a National army in terms of a few years.
    Another problem that crossed my mind has to do with the loyalties of the soldiers. As long as the different warlords to whom the soldiers are loyal have an incentive to fight the Taliban this will happen. But as we’ve seen in the past warlords tend to shift alliances rather easily. So a real critical moment for the ANA will come when an important political leader decides to cooperate with the Taliban. Will the ANA soldiers stay loyal to the Afghan government or their local leader?
    I think that is a critical moment to see whether the soldiers in the ANA have the right incentives and loyalties and whether the ANA has a fighting chance against the Taliban.

  9. TJ says:

    It may sound fanciful, but I heard in a movie once that one person defending his home is more powerful than 10 hired soldiers. The ANA is part of a ‘statebuilding’ project to make everything in Afghanistan institutionalized, but I think that the point is that the system is not ready to carry all these institutions. These people are in the army because it provides them with a livelihood, not because of the cause. This makes them weak and corrupt. They cannot compete with ideologically motivated Taliban warrios who feel that they promote and protect the only one true ’cause’.

    Although we haven’t really talked about in in class much, what I think would be the one thing Afghanistan needs to become a stable state is nationalism. A sense of unity, of ‘us’. That is one thing the ANA could actually provide, as a national army. But if this army is not actually ethnically diverse and if it’s deemed to be corrupt, this sort of defeats the object. So other ways of creating a sense of nationalism could help Afghanistan to become a state, because they would perceive the Afghan state as a collective object. If there is one thing that creates a sense of ‘us’ than it is the perception of what the ‘other’ is, in other words a common enemy. This might actually be the war on the Taliban… I think…The fragmentation in Afghanistan needs to be mended.

    The question to whether COIN is the way to go: I think the idea is very good, but it is difficult to carry out. It is easier to stir-up chaos than to give people a sense of security. So like I said, the Afghan people should perform their own “COIN” in the form of a revolution of the people and take matters in their own hand. For this to happen, the US needs to leave first…

  10. Afghanopoly says:

    It looks like I am not the only one questioning COIN in Afghanistan. Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry harshly criticizes it (and the US army) in a recent Foreign Affairs article: “”COIN” evolved from a noun to an adjective, and its overuse became almost a parody to faithful Red Guards Maoist slogans during the Cultural Revolution.” Worth reading:

  11. Heins says:

    It’s hard to see which process should come first in making a functional state out of the Afghanistan as it is today. Is it a self-inforcing circle in which good governance and interference from outside parties will automatically lead to a peaceful society? Or do we need a sense of statehood first, before being able to implement something like democracy? And will trying to educate an army work when the idea itself doesn’t come from the inside but is imposed on the country as being a ‘good idea’?

    • Collin says:

      Rome wasn’t built in one day. The western democracy of today is a result of developments that have occurred for decades, centuries? How can we aspect that a country like Afghanistan (that has so little experience with this phenomenon) to implement democracy while it’s still in times of war.

  12. Thurgeis says:

    Many comments made so far are concerned with the impossibilities of creating a successful Afghan army and the main argument seems to be the lack of unity in the country/army. In his article “Building “National”Armies-Building Nations” Sven Gunnar Simonsen makes a compelling argument in my opinion, when he makes a parallel between creating a national army and building a nation.
    I think that a nation building is a very deep and complicated process affecting all layers of society. And in its very core I think it is an identity transformation in the people, rather than solely the build up of institutions. Therefor I do not agree with Nigina and Volkan when they say that people always remain faithful to their own group and act in that interest alone.
    Before Europe had its famous Nation Building period (1880-1910ish) the countries were not by a long shot as consolidated as they are now, let alone the people. Most civilians identified with an area rather than a country. However tools were developed to forge them into a unified identity that corresponded with the borders that states set, rather than regional areas.
    Now the Afghan state is of course not as strong as the European states were back in the day, but it’s the process of transformation that is important here. An army can be one of the institutions that helps realize this.

    The main problem of this process of transformation it that it takes a lot of time, especially when it coincides with rebuilding almost all institutions at the same time, rather than transforming them one at a time. But time is not on the side of the Afghan government, with the US leaving soon. The Taliban knows this and will probably keep their head down until the US has left.

    However it appears the Taliban succeeded in bringing many different Afghan together and forging them into a fighting force on the basis of shared religion/ideology. Nationalism has historically often proved to be an equally powerful incentive to change and regroup under a single banner.

  13. Eikenberry’s text, posted a few replies up, raises a few interesting questions and offers some helpful information when one is trying to understand the current situation of the ANA and the problems that the Afghan government will face once Coalition forces have withdrawn. Two words:

    Motivation and extraction.

    Sure, Coalition trainers have taught the Afghan security forces about walking patrols, defending a position, and all that other good stuff. Unfortunately for all that good stuff to work and produce an efficient soldier you need motivation. That motivation can come from within that soldier or from outside actors. Currently it seems that there is a distinct lack in both those forms of motivation.

    Apparently a large portion of the security forces cannot motivate itself to act professionally or in accordance with their training. They seem to have a “good-enough” attitude, put themselves first, the group second, and somewhere down the line comes the Afghan State. If a soldier is not committed to doing the best job he can do due to his own personal motivations than that leaves outside motivation to get him in line. Typically this type of motivation is a fear of the punishment that is reserved for not doing one’s duty. However, having a capable charismatic leader can also reign in some of the troops. Again, judging from what we have learned in class, and in this thread, about Afghanistan’s military structure good leaders are hard to come by in Afghanistan due to nepotism.

    We can talk about unity, money, nationalism, ethnicity, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as possible means of motivation for the problematic part of Afghanistan’s security forces but some people cannot be motivated beyond their own personal gain. Lacking a solid military structure negates a lot of the power outside motivation has within a proper military. I know the Afghans have some tough as nails soldiers but those alone cannot fully counter the Taliban insurgency. They’ll need numbers, and besides numbers they’ll need skill and proper motivation to employ that skill. Unity, money, nationalism, ethnicity, are all important factors in this process but most of all you need the right type of people if you want to build an effective military.

    On the topic of extraction it begs the question whether the Afghan government can support its national army once the Coalition forces leave. Eikenberry, in the article linked above, mentions how “the United States and other donors paid for about 90 percent of Afghanistan’s total public expenditures, including funding for the Afghan National Security Forces.” Will they have enough means of extracting resources once international starts to dry up? Will they have a proper military structure in place to even distribute material and information? Even if they get their troops motivated, consolidated, and disciplined will they even be able to use them properly?

    I do not think the Afghan military can be saved from the outside.
    I hope that the Afghan military will somehow find a source of inner motivation to get down to business, and that the military leaders that are needed within the military’s structure end up in the right places. There are some excellent military commanders in Afghanistan, and it would be a shame to not utilize that resource in fighting the insurgency.

    • martvrieze says:

      I agree with everything said above, but aside from numerous problems regarding the ANA and the COIN operations in Afghanistan, I think a problem largely overlooked is strategy. From my point of view the ANA doesn’t have a real strategy to defeat the Taliban, the strategy IS defeating the taliban. COIN doesn’t have this problem to the sae degree, but it suffers from it’s temporary character. Right now if I were a Talibani, I would wait for the coalition forces to leave because the afghans themselves do not have a strategy on how to defeat the Taliban. The Taliban embodies everything the ANA lacks, Discipline, homogeneity, focus and commitment. Strategy is the key, without it the ANA is just working in the dark. I think Sun – Tzu sums the problem up quite nicely: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

  14. TheEqualist says:

    As said in the text that COIN is a long term mission. As US it is very expensive to do such a intervention in a foreign country, Now they want to leave and led the Afghan people deal with the COIN.

    But in these last years we saw that the institutions in Afghanistan aren’t even working properly. And that from private to public institutions the harmony is far from reach. So taking this into consideration, why should the ANA be a succes? We would again have factions and no harmony in the national army and so the Afghan COIN is gonna be a failure, And if this is the case, all the COIN done in the previous years was for nothing and alot of tax money of the US citizens were blown by the wind.

    • Collin says:

      The US intervention of Afghanistan was controversial in the first place. As a result, the country is more unstable than before. I think it’s unacceptable for the US too just intervene Afghanistan, destabilize the country (and for what?) and then just leave. Of course American citizens pay a lot of money for this mission but how about the innocent Afghan people that want to achieve something in their lives?

      • Roy says:

        There are pretty much no countries existing that really care about the innocent Afghan people (or Afghanistan as a country). Perhaps Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. Every “good” thing the US and companions do in Afghanistan is eventually for their own sake, correction: they believe it’s for their own sake.
        Maybe when the ANA stands on their own feet they change their mindset. When the taliban takes more control in Afghanistan and abuses are committed more and more, maybe they will get new inspiration and motivation to do what is neccesary. Now daddy is still holding the ANA’s hands, it’s the question wether this process of maturation and increase of motivation will come soon enough. Just like the rest i don’t think it will, we are trying to implement a process, that should take much longer, in 13 years and than the question if it can be done by other countries related to the different culture and so forth.

      • TheEqualist says:

        Now when I see how corrupt and none trustable the people are. i can’t really trust that one person in afghanistan want to really achieve something positively. Everyone we trust later works for the taliban or something like that.

        I guess we should just go away, and let them fight their own problems. And if they provide safehavens again, we should just use the atomic bomb. Cause we can never be truely safe instead.

  15. lc3102 says:

    Another question I have, that has not been mentioned yet, is how or what the ANA will look like after the upcoming elections of 2014. A total of 27 candidates have come forward and some with the ‘warlords’, that we have been discussing in class and on this blog, as vice presidential candidates. See here for the Wikilist of candidates thusfar:,_2014
    and here for an NY Times article:

    Apart from some factual information, I found this sentence to be quite important: “The country is run on patronage, and the politics are no different. Candidates rely on cash and ethnic and regional loyalties to secure votes, looking for running mates who can help fatten bank accounts and diversify their appeal.”

    Taking it together with the readings of the upcoming week, I’d also like to draw attention to the fact that Pakistan has recently released quite a few Taliban leaders they had had in custody since 2008, such as Mansoor Dadullah (see p. 25 Bew et al/ICSR report (2013)) or and also Mullah Baradur, whose arrest allegedly involved the ISI and the CIA, who was also released last month:

    If we look at certain presidential candidates, the election of one of them in April 2014, the pull-out of international military forces and (almost certain) come-back of the Taliban in Afghan national politics, perhaps the regionalised powersharing idea should be more widely distributed and seen as a credible solution. As has been mentioned before, during one of our other blog discussions: perhaps a sort of assembly of states of Afghanistan would be better than forcing one coherent, national identity upon a group of people more aligned along local lines (be they tribal, ethnic, religious, etc).

    • njs2184 says:

      I think that lc3102 makes a very interesting point. With the 2014 elections coming up, it is hard to say how the ANA would change under different leadership. With the right type of leadership, that can pull the right type of motivation from the people, it seems that the ANA could potentially gain ground. If certain providential leaders are elected to some of these positions, it might attract a more devote and hardworking military base from the local sectors. Since some of the local leaders already have strong followings, the people from their regions might be inclined to fight in an ANA that is led and/or influenced by a familiar face. However, this scenario might seem a bit idealistic. Everything would be exceptionally dependent on the person that is elected as well as the emotional climate of the followers of this person.

      Now, how else can the potential elections will effect the Afghanistan government? If some of these candidates have been involved in less than ideal situations in past, does it really change the Afghan government that we know today. The government is currently operating with actors fall under this same category. It is also easy to see that the government experiences its fair share of corruption. So even though some of the candidates for the upcoming elections seem out of place, I am not sure that it is really a significant change from the current government officials.

  16. TJ says:

    I don’t think that an ethnically diverse state cannot function as a whole. People do not have to be ethnically homogenous to construct one idea of ‘the Afghan state’, they just have to agree on a few basic principles, which is the foundation of democracy. If people as diverse as voting for the (quite controversial) PVV as opposed to the SP can function together in one state in the Netherlands, so could different Afghan ethnicities. The question is: are we ready to face that what the Afghan people democratically decide might not be what we want?

    As it is, COIN in Afghanistan has already been a long process without much result. I don’t know if we can claim a status quo in Afghanistan but I don’t really get the feeling that we are getting anywhere. As mentioned in class today, we are apparently no longer disarming the population, but arming them again albeit other people. Maybe the extraction of all U.S. military will trigger a response in Afghanistan with which we can work again. I think that educating people in claiming their civil rights might actually be more efficient than the American Army being present there. Everyone will get a chance to take matters in their own hands again, not just the Taliban. The Afghan people may yet surprise us…

    Collin, I do agree that leaving people to fend for themselves now sounds really harsh. But the question is: aren’t we doing more damage by staying in Afghanistan than by leaving? We could still provide other services should the Afghan people have need of it… I’m not saying that we have to close every door, in fact I think we should keep all doors open if they ask for our help.

    • Ann says:

      Definitely agree with that TJ – education is in my opinion one aspect that is always seen as something additional or ‘extra’ in such operations, but should be a fundamental part of such missions. Education starts at the roots – the people, the citizens. By educating the people, you are actually handing them more efficient tools to defend themselves than actual weapons. And though it might sound more ideological than anything else, I think it is so overlooked. Fair enough when an army enters the country, arms blazing and everything, but if after a decade of fruitless efforts, strategies should be reconsidered. Education provides the beginnings of moral reasoning, of confidence, of standing on one’s own two feet and is one of the basic needs that have to be met, such as a roof over one’s head and sufficient food. As Bertold Brecht put it in his Dreigroschenoper: Erst das Fressen, dan die Moral. Let the Afghans fend for themselves, and provide the tools for them to do so (the least you can do after years of interference) – they will go on and develop their own vision of an Afghan society. And if they ever need our help – they will ask for it, and we will surely provide it.

      • 2ways says:

        Yes, education is the key for getting a country on its feet again. People with a higher education score better on all sorts of tests and contribute more to the economy (that is, if the Afghan government finally gets the means together to tax effectively). But no, at this point it will not be possible to make an educated person out of the average Afghan citizen. In order to let the Afghan people educate themselves it is of the highest importance that international troops stay. The current situation is that almost everyone is illiterate, there are few schools and when ISAF and US soldiers leave the Taliban will (at this point) find no difficulties in retaking a huge amount, if not all of territory. The result will be that women cannot attend school whatsoever, only very religiously, indoctrinating schools will exist that won’t significantly help the citizens of Afghanistan but will create more radicalists and the economy won’t get a boost out of that.

        COIN therefore is so far the way to go. We need to get rid of most of the Taliban and install governors and ordinary citizens with a heart for Afghanistan before we leave. If not successfully applied by the time the soldiers leave, than private military and security forces can take over the job, paid by America. I believe the COIN will by that time be more successful due to the fact that these PMSC’s are not covered by media, can actually protect institutions and buildings such as schools because they have no other tasks than to protect this building, and are there to stay for a longer period. COIN provided by these PMSC’s will force the Taliban to think about settling a deal or at least changing their tactics, because the media will not pick it up as the Taliban settling with the Americans (which they probably won’t because of their image loss). In the long run the COIN should end, but for now it’s the best option we got.

      • Bart says:

        Education sounds like a really nice solution but just as 2ways says I don’t think it will work in Afghanistan the way you hope it works. I don’t think people in Afghanistan will accept education that comes from foreign/western parties. It might be that some people would like to receive education but in Afghanistan the Taliban is opposed to it. I don’t think people would dare to oppose the stronger forces like the Taliban that are against western education. Indeed probably the entire country could benefit from education but I just don’t think it will help since only very few will follow western education if it is provided since a lot of western ideas are in conflict with those of strong actors in Afghanistan. I’m afraid that letting the Afghans fend for themselves and help them if they ask for it won’t work either. The Afghans might eventually ask for help from foreign parties but then it will be already too late I think.

  17. 0range says:

    Many of the problems of the ANA are being blamed on the lack of intrinsic motivation shown by the afghan soldiers. Jet why should the regular afghan soldier show any real motivation beyond their paycheck? Motivation by itself is a very rare thing. Motivation is always an interplay between inducements by an organization and contributions by individual actors. So that is the government/army doing to stimulate the soldiers? They pay the soldiers, but that is by itself not enough. The idea that I am trying to put forth is that what the ANA lacks is not “ willing men” but a shortage of reasons to excel. I think that the problems they should be tackling are [1] the lack of prestige the ANA has and [2] the lack of advancement opportunities presented to the soldiers

    • Ann says:

      This made me think of what Kerry/ Obama mentioned somewhere in September (and then got seriously attacked for, for example ): ”tired of war”, war-weariness.

      Would it be a weird to think that they are simply tired of warm and therefore lack motivation? Just from a human perspective.

      • Sophie says:

        Yes, of course, they might be tired of war, but maybe – not least since most Afghans have never known a situation without war – there are other reasons for the lack of motivation in the ANA as well. Orange touched upon it briefly when saying ‘lack of advancement opportunies presented to soldiers’ is a problem. This made me think of something that was mentioned in one of the video clips posted above (the second ‘in the meantime in Afghanistan’ clip): Afghans aren’t used to being promoted based on their achievements, but based on (family) networks. Maybe we should have tried to bring ‘meritocracy’ – rather than democracy – to Afghanistan. It’s attractive because it can provide you with personal gain, and it will increase motivation and therefore performance. It might sound very basic and I’m sure the US soldiers have already tried to bring the idea of reward-based-on-merit to Afghanistan, but I don’t think it’s been taken seriously enough. On top of the current lack of career improvement opportunities, it would also require a change in culture, but it might be very useful, in state-building also, because it would motivate people to perform and it might be a first step in breaking traditional patronage networks.
        I realize that again this would mean implementing western ideas elsewhere, something most of us on this blog – including myself – decided was absolutely not a good idea. Yet, I wonder whether the meritocracy idea won’t do some good. After all, foreign forces have already changed the game in Afghanistan, and it’s not like the rules are still those of traditional society. Moreover, most people do agree that the ‘goal’ for the Afghan state is being a stable, legitimate state, in a way that it will be recognized by the rest of the (Western-dominated) international community. Maybe the idea of meritocracy will be an essential element in the path towards this. And one of the first places it could work would be the ANA.

  18. Alucard says:

    As the impending withdrawal of many international forces looms ever nearer, the successful continuation of COIN operations executed by local militias and the ANA seems, in my view, to be unrealistic at best.
    Eikenberry’s article provides some basis for this assertion. Eikenberry underpins that “insurgencies are protracted by nature. Thus, COIN operations always demand considerable expenditures of time and resources.” Considering that COIN operations were largely unsuccessful with large-scale international military and financial support it is subsequently only reasonable to infer that such operations without international support will underperform if not outright fail. This is not only due to the apparent lackadaisical motivation of Afghan soldiers within the ANA or the diminished expenditure to fund such operations, but also because of the reinvigoration Taliban forces will experience once the ISAF withdraw.
    Another issue raised by Eikenberry is the doctrinal approach of COIN operations. The “protection of the population” aspect of COIN however seems conspicuously ambiguous. The problem being that how the population is protected could be interpreted in different ways. The enemy from which the population has to be protected is tacitly understood as being the Taliban. However, as Eikenberry points out, the population could also be harassed by “venal local police forces or predatory government officials.” Taking into account that many ANA positions are doled out via patronage networks, corruption at the government level by either soldiers or bureaucrats is not unthinkable. The “protection of the population” aspect of COIN operations therefore could be as failure as the population has to be protected from the supposed protectors.
    This in turn could also negatively influence the already hampered legitimacy of the ANA. Corruption and poorly motivated staff among the ANA notwithstanding, it doesn’t help if the president himself describes the institution itself as “being more like indulged American mercenaries than an authentic native force.”
    For all of these reasons, it strikes me as specious to suppose the ANA could hold off the Taliban insurgency for an extended period of time without extended international support.

  19. 0range says:

    If the ANA would be left to fend for itself, it is not unrealistic to assume that dessertion would make it combat ineffective long before te Taliban brings it down. Sertainly concidering the history afghanistan has of absorbing losing commanders into the winning team.

    • TheEqualist says:

      I agree with you on this one. I 13 years they haven’t been able to make a really impressive stand as Afghan army/police etc. So it would be a matter of time before the Taliban would come back with the help of good financiers.

      The Ethnic divisions in the ANA makes it difficult for them to have a central identity. Meanwhile fighting the factions rivalries in the security institutions the Talban will regroup and take it all over.

      As long that they don’t provide safehavens for global jihadi groups it shouldn’t become a problem.Just a pitty for all the money we putted into COIN over the past years.

  20. MerelR says:

    Obama is sending his troops home and according to him by the end of next year the US war in Afghanistan will be over. In the documentary “This is what winning looks like” Ben Anderson (2013) shows American soldiers in Sangin who are training Afghan Soldiers, so the Afghan soldiers will be able to fight the Taliban in the future. But the American instructors have to work with commanders that molest and sexually abuse children. According to Ben Anderson the international community is not leaving because they have achieved their goals, but because they have giving up. It is all about saving their face and get out as soon as possible. And it could even be worse, because all the fighting is has been to install and support a hated and corrupt government. He also says that the people on the ground have given up on the hope of success in Afghanistan. The idea for Afghanistan has always been to come to a town, clear the Taliban out and let the other “nation builders” come in to train the Afghans in government, and build the infrastructure. But this other part almost never happens and it is left to the soldiers that are trained to fight and aren’t trained to do all these complicated things. The documentary shows the trained soldiers that are keeping four men imprison without giving them any water. The US soldiers can’t do anything but watch this. They say they are not trying to make the Afghan soldiers into an American police, but they just try to teach them human rights. So when you keep someone prisoner you should at least give him water. Another thing is that the Afghan soldiers are using a lot of weed, “every police base has got a little weed garden”.
    In my opinion this documentary is full of examples that show the Afghan Army is not ready to take care of their own security. In reaction to the last sentence of this blog “it remains to be seen whether the ANA will be strong enough to keep the Taliban at bay”, I don’t think they are strong enough. While building a state in terms of good governance, local ownership, and capacity building can only be a fantasy when then building of a national army is failing like this documentary shows.

    • njs2184 says:

      Thank you MerelR for posting this video. I really appreciate the honesty and strait forward look into what the reality is of the future extraction of foreign troops. After viewing something as revealing as this video, it is exceedingly difficult to have any hope in the future of the Afghan army and governmental structure. I realized that the future outlook of this system was dismal, but something that surprised me was that fact that people in Afghanistan still do not fully understand what will happen when the foreign aid is gone. In this video, there is a moment when Afghan soldiers and commanders mention how great it will be to have all of the money and resources to themselves once the Americans leave. The don’t realize that the United States government isn’t going to leave them with all of the money and equipment that is currently in place. Later on in the video you can see how this over dependency has led to major issues. Certain bases cannot even get to the battles because they do not have enough fuel after the US government refused to give them gasoline that would be stolen and sold off. This video also shows the lack of motivation within the Afghan outfits. They got tired of filling sand bags, so they made civilians and children do it for them for no justifiable reason.

      Something that stuck me as a very powerful viewpoint was that of the moral conditions of the Marines shown. You could tell that they all knew that there was nothing that they could do there. They are morally exhausted and their hopes are in shambles. It makes you really understand the real reason as to why they are leaving Afghanistan. Like it was mentioned earlier, they are not leaving because they accomplished their goals. They are leaving because they can’t keep hurting themselves.

      However, it was interesting to hear one of the US Marines talk at the vary end of the video. You could tell that he was morally and emotionally defeated. Yet, through all of this despair, he made the connection between the Afghans and a crooked, leaning radio tower at one of the bases. He said that, just like the tower, this system is very far from perfect, but it is still standing somehow. We can only hope that a strong wind doesn’t blow it down.

  21. sergiu says:

    Nothing..just to take a note that we are writting and thinking strategies about Afghanistan and meanwhile this is what is really happening. (In the video) so we are faaaaar from the reality and little hope is reserved for us…it’s a ironic and grotesc thinking about reality.we laugh about what we should cry 😉

  22. NRG says:

    Looking at the replies to this question i think it is safe to assume that the ANA is certainly not up to the task of keeping the Taliban at bay in ways of COIN. That said i think it is possible that the frequency of insurgencies by the Taliban might drop with US troops leaving the country. Because US troops give Taliban a proper force to fight against. They are easily depicted as the ‘foreign invaders’ who do more harm than good to the country. This strengthens the resolve of Taliban supporters. With the US leaving i think that we are taking away this important source of legitimacy that the Taliban claim to have. On the other hand before the US intervention the Taliban was also fighting against other Afghan groups, but back then most people didn’t yet know how it was be under Taliban rule. I think the ‘new’ Taliban (for as far as we can say that) gains more support because people grow weary of the US troops being everywhere, then because of their Islamic principles they stand for. That’s why people despite their gruesome history with Taliban ally themselves with them. History shows us that these unlikely alliances are not rare in Afghanistan when it comes to foreign powers. That said I think the most difficult and most important challenge for the ANA is to become a reliable counterpart to the Taliban. Not only in terms of COIN but also, as stated by orange, to gain more prestige. The ANA should thus not only be an instrument to counter insurgencies but also to give the government more legitimacy and help diminish the support of the Taliban, something the US troops will never be able to accomplish because they are one of the main reasons the Taliban gains popular support.

    • Simone says:

      NRG, I completely agree with you when you say that the “US troops will never be able to accomplish because they are one of the main reasons the Taliban gains popular support”. But I don’t think it’s realistic to think that the insurgencies by the Taliban might drop when U..S troops leave the country. It is even said that when Obama anounced their planned departure to be in 2014, the Taliban would just ‘wait it out’ until they would lave and then take action. So if the U.S. wants to make sure the Taliban won’t gain power immediately after they leave it’s quite necessary that the ANA not only become stronger in being an instrument to counter insurgencies, but also to give the government more legitimacy.
      This then would pose an interesting dilemma, since their leaving would on the one hand mean room for the government and ANA to create legitimacy, since it then afghan again and not U.S.-led, but on the other hand the risk of the Taliban, still with their popular support they have while the American intervention is present, taking over power.

      • NRG says:

        I agree that I may have been a little too simplistic in thinking that the insurgencies might drop in frequency. It is however still to be considered one of the possible scenarios. Because with only insurgencies you can’t take over a country at some point they need to come out of their holes a make the so called ‘final offensive’. With the US troops leaving this might be sooner then we expect because the Taliban’s chances of victory are increasing. Assuming the will launch this offensive eventually leaves us with two possible outcomes. The first scenario is that the Taliban regains control in Afghanistan which might seem bad at first but at least there is one main actor that the international community can talk to and negotiate with. And perhaps create a government that actually is supported by a majority of Afghans. The second outcome is that the Taliban gets defeated but this time not by foreign troops or aid but by the ANA itself which hopefully grants them some prestige and help the people loyal to the current government feel more secure. That being said there is a lot of speculation going on here so i might me totally wrong.

      • Simone says:

        there is indeed a lot of speculation going on and the future may just as well be what no one had expected.
        But I do like to pick up the first of two scenario’s you presented.
        When Taliban would take control, and the international community would acknowledge the Taliban as official government of Afghanistan and have this actor around the negotiation table of the international community it would make the years (and ofcourse loads of money) spend on fighting the Taliban with counter insurgency sound rather ridiculous. and doesn’t the saying goes “if you can’t beat them, join them”?
        From a realist point of view this would thus be a rational step to take. in the real world, unfortunately, I’m afraid this is not very plausible to happen. the U.S. government (and probably a great deal of the american population) would consider this dangerous, collaboration with the enemy. and the Taliban’s main concern is that the U.S. troops and intervention leaves, so they are probably not ( even less if they have won by victory and not by agreement) be willing to negotiate with the international community.
        that being said, I’m not sure how bad it would actually be if they would gain power without negotiation. ofcourse this is a very optimistic line of reasoning, but as we have learned, the latest Taliban members are less hardcore and ideological oriented than years ago. if this, in combination with the dissapearance of frustration about extern intervention, would create some kind of moderation amongst this group, Than its governmental position could be discussed.
        I’m not saying I’m pro-taliban. but given this possible future moderation in combination with the current situation:
        1. great deal of population is pro-taliban
        2. present government has no good institutions, no legitimacy and no good army.
        3. Taliban has some governmental functions, like judiciary, running better than the government itself
        4. COIN programme doesn’t seem able to win and international community wants to leave Afghan ground

        it’s starting to look like an option we have to take into consideration.

    • Lotte says:

      NRG I agree with you on the point that the US troops are one of the main reasons the Taliban gains popular support. However I do not think that the ANA should diminish the support of the Taliban. Although the Taliban regime wasn’t that pleasant for the citizens of Afghanistan, they do have a lot of support. You can’t just diminish all that support for the Taliban, I believe you have the bend this support to something useful. I believe that the ANA has to convince the (former) Taliban combatants that their goal is a better goal and that they can cooperate together. Those combatants do have fighting skills and experiences, by reintegrating those combatants and supporters in the ANA, the ANA can kill two birds with one stone.

      We have learned from the past that the exclusion of the Taliban at the Bonn-conference was a mistake, the ANA should not make this mistake again by excluding the Taliban once again.

      • Lotte says:

        Simone I agree with you that the US is not going to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Bush once said `We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’ And even when the US would negotiate with the Taliban I don’t believe that they will recognize them because this would mean that the US has lost the war in Afhanistan. Simone lists four points that need to be recognized. The Taliban can not be ignored again just like the Bonn conference . I believe that the US has to cooperate with the Taliban but even if the US agrees on cooperation, I don’t know if the Taliban is willing to cooperate with the US. I think when the endstate will be a negotiated agreement with the Taliban, this will not happen before 2014 when the US leaves Afghanistan.

  23. ML93 says:

    ISAF rushing out of Afghanistan is one of the biggest mistakes they can make. Making a final sprint to the finishline will surely lead to a failure of the whole ISAF-mission. As many of the comments above me also indicate Afghanistan is not ready to deal with the insurgency independently. The ANSF are not ready yet, it is understaffed, ill-disciplined, ill-experienced and has received not enough training to face the experienced and motivated insurgents. Also, corruption and the tribal/ethnic relations play an important role in this.
    Now that the coaltition forces are preparing for leaving Afghanistan, the Afghan government has to brace itself for the serious threats ahead. Obviously, the government has to face the Taliban and other opposing insurgents almost entirely alone. But within the government itself, loyalty is very weak. We’ve seen that government officials, officers and soldiers switch sides just very easily. Alliances don’t mean that much in Afghanistan. Once a government official senses the Taliban are getting the upper hand he will switch sides to the Taliban to make sure he supports the winning faction.
    Post 2014 Afghanistan will become and remain a place of war and conflict if ISAF keeps pushing to an easy escape for themselves. If they leave Afghanistan in the state it is in today, they will abandon any hope for security and development in that region any time soon.

    • Simone says:

      ML93, I see your point.
      but what would you suggest if they would stay longer? keep fighting taliban or training the ANA? Put more funding in the government? make a more intense attempt to coalition or elections?
      is there even a realistic goal they can strive for which would create a permissible departure for the international community even if they would take more time?

      • Thurgeis says:

        I understand your skepticism Simone and I agree that the international forces leaving makes sense (if not in the last place because of faltering domestic support). But your questions do paint a very grim picture.
        I think one of the problems is that the coalition switched strategies a number of times, empowering Taliban confidence and essentially wasting money in the process. IT is hard to tell what would have happened if the Light imprint was discarded earlier in the process, or if the US opted for a form of State Building right away.

        A permissible departure is hard yes, I agree. From the onset the whole thing has been overly ambitious and not realistic. So I guess in a way harm has been done anyway. But in the eyes of most people permissible I guess would be either a function Afghan state that remains in power after the departure or utter defeat at the hands of the Taliban. None of which is likely to happen.

        On the other hand, leaving now is like asking for another civil war to erupt, and there is no way of telling who will gain the upper hand. I’m not sure if it is a risk we want to take. With Pakistani interference we might be looking at an extension of a radical Islamist area that is not friendly to liberal democracies.

      • Simone says:

        Indeed my response was a bit skeptic. maybe I should have added that I didn’t really expected an all-engulfing answer about what they should do exactly. since that would mean ML93 had the answer on the questions on everybodies minds.

        and maybe it didn’t sound like that, but I do think that for the Afghan peoples’ sake it would we better if they stayed and their sake should be our first priority. what the next step would be, after deciding to stay, is hard. but you started your comment with some looking-back and evaluation of what has been done before. I think that’s an important part for them to begin with: really learning from their mistakes and taking these into account when discussing the next step, instead of just trying something else when one thing doesn’t seem to work

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