Thursday, March 19, 2009

Surging the Afghan forces and US civilians

More details on what the new overall US plan may look like:

1) Really ramping up the Afghans:
U.S. Plans Vastly Expanded Afghan Security Force

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Afghan soldiers and their American trainers conducted a joint patrol last November to blow up a cave used as an attack position near the Pakistani border.

President Obama and his advisers have decided to significantly expand Afghanistan’s security forces in the hope that a much larger professional army and national police force could fill a void left by the central government and do more to promote stability in the country, according to senior administration and Pentagon officials.

A plan awaiting final approval by the president would set a goal of about 400,000 troops and national police officers, more than twice the forces’ current size, and more than three times the size that American officials believed would be adequate for Afghanistan in 2002, when the Taliban and Al Qaeda appeared to have been routed.

The officials said Mr. Obama was expected to approve a version of the plan in coming days as part of a broader Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. But even members of Mr. Obama’s national security team appeared taken aback by the cost projections of the program, which range from $10 billion to $20 billion over the next six or seven years [emphasis added].

By comparison, the annual budget for the entire Afghan government, which is largely provided by the United States and other international donors, is about $1.1 billion, which means the annual price of the program would be about twice the cost of operating the government of President Hamid Karzai [emphasis added].

Those figures include only the cost of training and establishing the forces, and officials are still trying to determine what the cost would be to sustain the security forces over the long term...

At present, the army fields more than 90,000 troops, and the Afghan National Police numbers about 80,000 officers [We're upping our help: "Canada contributes $21M to fund for Afghan police"]. The relatively small size of the security forces has frustrated Afghan officials and American commanders who wanted to turn security over to legitimate Afghan security forces, and not local warlords, at a faster pace.

After resisting the idea for several years, the Bush administration last summer approved an increase that authorized the army to grow to 134,000 over the next three years, in a program that would cost about $12 billion...

The new proposal would authorize a doubling of the army, after the increase approved last summer, to about 260,000 soldiers. In addition, it would increase the number of police officers, commandos and border guards to bring the total size of the security forces to about 400,000 [emphasis added]. The officials who described the proposal spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to discuss it publicly in advance of final approval by Mr. Obama.

Some European countries have proposed the creation of an Afghan National Army Trust Fund, which would seek donations from oil kingdoms along the Persian Gulf and other countries to pay for Afghanistan’s security forces [emphasis added--good bloody luck, esp. in the current economic and oil price situation]...
2) Ramping up the US civilian presence:
Civilians to Join Afghan Buildup
'Surge' Is Part of Larger U.S. Strategy Studied by White House

A civilian "surge" of hundreds of additional U.S. officials in Afghanistan would accompany the already approved increase in U.S. troop levels there under a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy being completed at the White House, according to administration officials [there has been a Canadian civilian surge too - MC].

President Obama is expected to make final decisions next week on that strategy, proposed by his top national security advisers and based on recommendations from senior military, diplomatic and intelligence officials and intensive consultations with NATO and United Nations partners.

Officials said the proposed strategy includes a more narrowly focused concentration on security, governance and local development in Afghanistan, with continued emphasis on rule-of-law issues and combating the narcotics trade. U.S. and British troops in the southern part of the country will attempt to oust entrenched Taliban forces, with an influx of reinforcements enabling them to retain control -- and help protect enhanced civilian operations -- until greatly expanded and sufficiently trained Afghan army and police forces are able to take their place.

In Pakistan, a senior defense official said "the jury is still out" on proposals to increase covert operations and missile strikes against insurgent sanctuaries in that country's western tribal areas, and to expand them into the southern province of Baluchistan, where the Taliban leadership openly operates in the provincial capital of Quetta. With the Pakistani government teetering and anti-American sentiment rising, "we have to be realistic about how this could all play out," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity...

More likely in the short term, officials said, are expanded efforts to aid the Pakistani military with training, new equipment and advice to improve its counterinsurgency performance, along with a massive increase of development aid to try to stabilize the country and wean tribal leaders away from insurgent groups. One problem yet to be solved is how to supervise the distribution of aid and reconstruction funds in an environment considered unsafe for U.S. officials to work in most areas.

Some of the proposed new civilian force in Afghanistan -- diplomats, specialists from federal departments such as Agriculture and Justice, and hundreds of new "full-time, temporary" hires -- would work at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, officials said. Others would be assigned to U.S. provincial reconstruction teams, or PRTs, located primarily in eastern Afghanistan, and to other efforts to build Afghan civilian capacity around the country. Patterned on a program first established in Iraq, the PRTs assist and advise Afghans in economic and local governance development.

The United States currently operates 12 of the 26 PRTs in Afghanistan. But unlike the others, run by NATO partners under civilian control, the U.S. teams are led and dominated by the military [so is the Canadian PRT, but with quite a few civilians--more here and here]: Only a few of the 1,055 U.S. staffers on the teams were civilians, according to a government audit in January. A congressional oversight investigation last year said that "finding qualified individuals with applicable skills and experience poses a significant challenge to staffing."

The additional 17,000 U.S. troops scheduled for deployment this year -- bringing the total to about 55,000 -- will increase the combat imbalance between the United States and NATO, and scheduled withdrawals of Canadian and Dutch troops over the next two years [emphasis added] will make Afghanistan even more of a U.S.-dominated war...

In addition to increasing its own civilian component, the administration seeks better coordination among the many other governments and international and nongovernmental agencies operating in Afghanistan [emphasis added], often with different rules and objectives. The strategy proposals include a strengthening of the United Nations as a clearinghouse and overall coordinator of nonmilitary efforts, including the appointment of veteran U.S. diplomat Peter W. Galbraith as deputy to Norwegian Kai Eide, the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.

"This is a big deal," [emphasis added] said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the appointment is announced. "The Bush administration undermined and ignored the U.N., and we minimized our influence. But imagine, with all the money we pay and American troops on the line, not to have a senior person" at the top level of the U.N. effort. A U.N. official said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will announce Galbraith's appointment in "a matter of days."

Galbraith served in senior U.S. and U.N. positions in the Balkans, East Timor and other conflict areas. Sharply critical of Bush administration policy in Iraq, he resigned from the U.S. government in 2003 and served as an adviser to Iraq's Kurdish regional government...
So the US is also going to try and whip international civilian activities into shape; someone has to do it since Mr Eide appears not to have been able to--see Update considerations here.

Update: A big part of the international civilian coordination problem:
UN envoy says donor aid is fragmenting Afghanistan

International donors are plowing as much as $1 billion into Afghanistan without going through the government, ultimately hurting the broader development effort, the U.N.'s top envoy to that nation said Thursday.

Because of that, Afghan and U.N. officials lack an overall picture of how much aid is available or spent for specific purposes, Kai Eide of Norway told the U.N. Security Council.

"I believe that the use of between $500 million and $1 billion are never reported to the Afghan government," he said. "As a result of the lack of coordination and transparency, large parts of the national development strategy will go unfunded."

Eide said donors lack confidence in the government because of its inability to coordinate or account for aid, so they bypass the central government in Kabul and focus on the provinces. Donors also have been demanding that Afghanistan confront pervasive government corruption...


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