Drop Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, Part 4: Arming the Corrupt Border Police

Posted: March 25, 2009 in Uncategorized
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In my first post in this series, I briefly mentioned the idea of a “seal,” i.e. a frontier that blocks the counterinsurgent’s opponents from escaping U.S. firepower and establishing a safe haven. The counterinsurgent wants to trap the opponent in a given geographic area and then convince the local population to expel them into the open. In Afghanistan, were the U.S. to continue to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy, that seal would have to be created along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. To do that, though, the U.S. would have to strengthen one of the most corrupt elements in the Afghan National Security Forces, even more corrupt than the Afghan police forces: The Afghan Border Police.

According to the Congressional Research Service:

By many accounts, the Afghan Border Police (ABP) may be beset by even greater incompetence and corruption than their AUP counterparts. To counteract these trends, GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], working with coalition counterparts, launched the Focused Border Development (FBD) program, similar to the AUP [Afghanistan Uniform Police] FDD [Focused District Development]. Between October 2008 and September 2009, FBD is scheduled to train 52 company-sized units of ABP, at four training sites. The courses are conducted by U.S. private security contractors–Blackwater and DynCorp. The retraining also includes arming the ABP with heavier weapons, including Soviet-origin DShK heavy machine guns.

…Protecting the border, some officials suggest, may require not only trained and professional ABP personnel stationed along the border, but also additional aerial reconnaissance and quick response forces.

Let’s back up and give a little context. CRS described the above-mentioned training program as analagous to the Focused District Directive for the Afghan Uniform Police. The same CRS report relates the following about that directive:

Some observers, including senior officials from international organizations, have charged that the program is not comprehensive enough to be effective. “Taking thugs away for a few weeks,” one official observed, “just gives you better thugs.”

…Coalition officials caution, however, that the reform process will take time, since the aim is a fundamental cultural shift. Providing gear, they argue, especially weapons, to “unreformed” districts, without proper accountability, would likely prove counterproductive [emphasis mine].

So, in an analagous program, officials are leery of giving weapons to participants, but in a sister program dealing with an even more corrupt agency, the U.S. is providing training via Blackwater (oh, excuse me, Xe) and DynCorp and “arming the ABP with heavier weapons, including…DShK heavy machine guns.”

That…sounds like a really bad idea. Even if Blackwater and DynCorp weren’t involved. But they are.

[UPDATE: Here’s a bit of information on why it’s ludicrous to have DynCorp involved:

Actually, being an American contractor is not a plus in the eyes of the Afghan people, for they’ve had bitter experiences with them. They point to DynCorp, a Virginia-based contractor that got nearly a billion dollars in 2006 to train Afghan police. The bumbling “Inspector Clouseau” of comic fame could’ve done a better job. At least he might have amused the people.

What they got from DynCorp was a bunch of highly paid American “advisors” who were unqualified and knew nothing about the country. Some 70,000 police were to be trained, but less than half that number actually went through the ridiculous eight-week program, which included no field training.

A 2006 U.S. report on the DynCorp trainees deemed them to be “incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work.” Meanwhile, no one knows how many of the trainees ever reported for duty, or what happened to thousands of missing trucks and other pieces of police equipment that had been issued for the training.

So we can thank DynCorp, in part, for the absolute corrupt mess that is the Afghan police force. I assume that readers don’t need me to go into why it’s ludicrous to have Blackwater involved…]

So, let’s recap the story so far. In our attempt to apply a counterinsurgency paradigm to Afghanistan:

But wouldn’t you know it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Afghanistan.

Next: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will alter Iran’s cost/benefit analysis and push them to hinder the effort to stabilize the country, when past behavior indicates they could be a helpful influence.

What you can do until then:

  1. […] Attempts to create a sealed environment required for counterinsurgency have driven us into bed with …. […]

  2. […] Drop Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, Part 4: Arming the Corrupt Border Police posted on April 3rd, 2009 at Return Good for Evil […]

  3. […] Attempts to create a sealed environment required for counterinsurgency have driven us into bed with …. Coda: U.S. backed counterinsurgents killed St. Romero de America and brutalized El Salvador. […]

  4. Stu Steinberg says:

    I read this part of your article with interest. I am an advisor to the ABP on the Iranian border with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. We have nothing to do with Xe or Dyncorp and I will not argue with you that they are corrupt, worthless cowboys who have essentially stolen billions of dollars from the US and other ISAF partners. But that is them and not us and our program in the west and southwest is not theirs. Furthermore, both the claims of the CRS report and your article, essentially trashing the entire ABP, are complete and total bullshit and written by people who haven’t been here and have no fucking idea what is actually going on on the ground, at least not in our AO, which covers almost 700 miles of border from NW of Herat to the Helmand River in the South.

    First, let me give you some facts that are not gleaned from total crap from people who have done no research and have no idea, therefore, what the fuck they are talking about. In 2007, 900 ABP officer were killed in the line of duty. That’s 900 in one year. In all of ISAF, they have lost 1569 through in more than eight years through 12/12/09. The ABP are outgunned and outmanned by heavily armed drugs traffickers and their Taleban supporters. They are paid $180 a month and live on $0.70 a day for food, they have no benefits and live away from their families much of the time. One of our border posts in Nimruz Province is a large mud hut staffed by no more than seven officers. They have no blast walls, no heavy weapons and we have no quick reaction force in our AO if they get into trouble. We get no air, ground, or med-e-vac support from ISAF. One or two RPGs or heavy mortar rounds turns this post into dust. These are dedicated men trying to save their country. They have seized thousands of tons of opiate product, precursor chemicals, weapons and munitions, all of which saves lives by denying the Taleban (and that is the correct spelling) funding and by stopping people from killing themselves with opiate products.

    Secondly, the idea that there can be peace, as you understand it, with the Anti-Coalition Militias, is simply the biggest load of crap I have heard this year, maybe ever. I assume you are aware that Gandhi clarified the apparent disconnect between nonviolence and self-defense in 1922. He acknowledged the private right to self-defense while simultaneously forbidding the use of political violence by direct-action participants. “The non-cooperator’s pledge does not exclude the right of private self-defense,” Gandhi said. “Non-cooperators are under prohibition as to political violence. Those, therefore, with whom non-cooperation is not their final creed are certainly free to defend themselves or their dependents and wards against their assailants. Dude, if you think the ACM are not assailants, then you are a complete moron.

    I would suggest that, instead of running your mouth, as did the CRS researchers, that you get on a plane, come over here and put your money where your mouth is. There is no talking to the enemy here, or in Iraq, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and every place else where they operate. They mean to kill all of us whom they consider infidels, including you and everyone you know. If you do not understand that, go talk to the Taleban or al Qaeda and see if you have your head attached to your shoulders when you’re done talking.

    For what it’s worth, I am a former public defender and capital defense investigator. I saved the lives of 17 men charged with capital murder. I am also a disabled Vietnam veteran. I have spent my entire life devoted to public service. Just what have you done to make the world a better and safer place?

    • dcrowe says:


      First, thanks for stopping in. I’m glad to have someone with your level of expertise to discuss this with.

      Second, please bear with me–I will post a longer, more complete reply over the next few days, but at the moment I’m transitioning out of an old job and into a new job and am low on blogging time at the moment. Stay tuned.

      Third, regarding this:

      For what it’s worth, I am a former public defender and capital defense investigator. I saved the lives of 17 men charged with capital murder. I am also a disabled Vietnam veteran. I have spent my entire life devoted to public service. Just what have you done to make the world a better and safer place?

      We’re not going to play this game. You are right to be proud of service to others (especially the public defender/capital defense investigator work…wow) My family, friends, colleagues and God know the answers to your questions, and, pardon my language, but we’re not going to have a public pissing match over our work for peace and justice.

      I’ll make you a deal: you want to have a conversation about this in a civil way, I’ll be happy to do so. But let’s do it on the merits.

      • Stu Steinberg says:

        Fair enough. To tell you the truth, it is the CRS report that really got me into rant mode. They spent all of three sentences dissing the entire ABP based on, apparently, one quote from some jerkoff at one Combined Joint Task Force. I am very familiar with the Focused Border Development Program on the Pakistani border and while they have had some problems according to a recent meeting I attended at ISAF HQ, it is a worthwhile and important program. Their is a great article about this program in The Long War Journal, Feb. 2009. Fortunately, their embedded advisors will be ISAF military and not these scumbag private security firms like Xe and Dyncorp. At a meeting I just attended two days ago in Mazar-i- Sharif at ISAF Regional Command-North, my Afghan colleague and I made a presentation on our Iranian border program. There were two representatives there from Dyncorp who are with their mentoring program to the ABP up here. Naturally, we were quite interested in talking to them and trying to set up a meeting to see what they are doing. Ten minutes into my colleague’s part of the presentation, they got up and left without a word. Maybe they had something they had to do because our meeting started late, but they could have said that. They did this in front of the provincial minister for the Afghan Customs Department and a general from the Afghan Customs Police. Extremely rude and discourteous, to say the least. Typical American gaijeen.

      • dcrowe says:


        I understand rant mode. I had a commenter earlier this week send me right to it. No worries.

        On the CRS report: I want to get us more information to evaluate the CRS researcher’s impressions, so I emailed both the report author and CJTF (someone tell CJTF that “combined” and “joint” mean the same thing) and asked them for a copy of the slide presentation cited in the footnote of the report. I’ll let you know what I get.

        Do you want to talk a little more about the ABP? What are the problems you mentioned? What makes you say they are a valuable program despite those problems? What has been your experience of the level of corruption in the ABP, if any?

        Yeah I’m not a Dyncorp-and-friends fan, obviously. That’s some pretty egregious behavior you describe, and emblematic of what I hear elsewhere.

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