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:
- We’re putting soldiers in a situation and asking them to pursue a strategy that does not jive with their training or culture or even human psychology.
- We’re pushing a massive, costly escalation that will damage our economy.
- We’re arming and expanding one of the most corrupt agencies in the Afghanistan national security establishment.
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:
- Call your Member of Congress and let them know you oppose escalation in Afghanistan. If you’re not sure who represents you, visit the House of Representatives website and input your address–it will give you the name of your congressperson (and, it will take you to their email form). You can reach them through the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121. United for Peace and Justice prepared some fantastic fact sheets to help you prepare.
- Call the White House and tell the President you oppose escalation in Afghanistan: 202-456-1111.
- Sign the petition over at Rethink Afghanistan calling for oversight hearings on the Afghanistan policy. (They’ve also just posted part 2 of their excellent film…see the trailer.)
- Sign Sojourner’s petition to Obama (mentioned above).
- Sign the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s petition calling for an investment in peace, not war, in Afghanistan.
- Learn more about the reasons to oppose counterinsurgency strategy by reading Alex’s post on counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism.