Academic journal article Military Review

Twelve Urgent Steps for the Advisor Mission in Afghanistan

Academic journal article Military Review

Twelve Urgent Steps for the Advisor Mission in Afghanistan

Article excerpt


THE ATTACKS OF 9/11 originated from Afghanistan, where a decade of international neglect after the fall of the communist government allowed Islamic extremists to train and thrive. Today, the mission to resurrect the failed Afghan state stands at "a strategic fork in the road." (1) Squabbling within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including threats by the Canadians and Dutch to withdraw forces in 2009, makes government and coalition victory seem far from inevitable in the eyes of the Afghan people. Their confidence in the coalition and their government has decreased, even as there has been some modest improvement in feelings about the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. (2) Frustration with the state of affairs in Afghanistan has been compounded by the coldest winter on record and fast-rising food prices, which generated relatively slow responses both from the government and international community.

Over the course of the six-year international presence in Afghanistan, the country has become the largest narcotic-producing nation in the history of the world. (3) Moreover, civilian deaths reached an apogee in the past year. Suicide bombings, rare prior to 2005, have increased and have become more deadly. Widely publicized suicide and kidnapping attacks against foreign civilian targets have made international agencies reluctant to work throughout significant portions of Afghanistan. (4). Meanwhile, coalition forces failed to convince the people that they were more discriminating in their use of violence than the insurgents, while casualty rates among coalition and Afghan forces are the highest they have been since the start of the conflict. In the economic realm, instability cut direct foreign investment in half over the past year, after five years of gains. (5) Afghans living in the once quiet center, west, and north of the country have grown increasingly frustrated with the central government's and international community's focus on the south and east. In the words of one political correspondent in Mazar-I Sharif, a city in the north, "Our people are today living in a state of disappointment." (6)

In the wake of such bad news, ISAF and the separate U.S.-led Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) have sought, with limited success, to increase the number of ISAF and U.S. advisors in the country so they can more quickly and effectively transfer security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). This plan, however, is not working. Without the following 12 major and rapid changes to its structure and execution, the advisory effort will fail to arrest the growing insurgencies in Afghanistan.

Prepare Advisors for Afghanistan, Not Iraq

Currently, the lead U.S. unit at Fort Riley charged with training advisors for Afghanistan and Iraq uses the same trainers for both missions. While Captain Daniel Helmer was a police mentor in Afghanistan and then served on a team charged with establishing the Afghanistan Counterinsurgency Academy. He currently serves as an instructor at the Directorate for Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency at Fort Riley, Kansas. Opinions expressed here are his own. Riley has made extensive efforts to prepare teams to operate effectively in Afghanistan, the major differences between the theaters make it very difficult for those who have only been to Iraq to develop an appropriate frame of reference for Afghanistan and prepare teams accordingly. The unit should consolidate all of its trainers with Afghanistan experience into one group focused on training for counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare in the mountains, deserts, and jungles of Afghanistan.

Additionally, while Fort Riley has the lead in training combat advisors, many other centers around the United States and Europe also provide training. The coalition and the U.S. military should standardize and consolidate Afghan training to the greatest degree possible. …

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