Thursday, September 24, 2009

"COMISAF's Initial Assessment ...Commander, United States Forces - Afghanistan/International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan"

AKA the McChrystal report. It isn't about numbers as such, it's about how to do the job. Numbers nonetheless are important. Media and politicians do not seem to have really grasped how revolutionary the assessment is. It is a real "state paper" as the British once described such documents. One does hope President Obama reads the whole thing (though the Annexes can get somewhat tedious); I'm pretty sure defence secretary Gates has.

The assessment is truly an ISAF, not simply American, paper. One does wonder how many senior politicians and government officials in contributing nations will bother to read it. I am pretty confident that Prime Minister Harper and Minister of National Defence MacKay will not.

The ultimate thrust of the assessment is quite simple: in the end, do ISAF members want the Afghan people to win?

Some excerpts that caught my eye:
...

Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or "doubling down" on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (lSAF) requires a new strategy that is credible to, and sustainable by, the Afghans. This new strategy must also be properly resourced and executed through an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency campaign that earns the support of the Afghan people and provides them with a secure environment.

To execute the strategy, we must grow and improve the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and elevate the importance of governance. We must also prioritize resources to those areas where the population is threatened, gain the initiative from the insurgency, and signal unwavering commitment to see it through to success. Finally, we must redefine the nature of the fight...

...ISAF is a conventional force that is poorly configured for COIN, inexperienced in local languages and culture, and struggling with challenges inherent to coalition warfare. These intrinsic disadvantages are exacerbated by our current operational culture and how we operate.

Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect. In addition, we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves...

Accomplishing this mission requires defeating the insurgency, which this paper defines as a condition where the insurgency no longer threatens the viability of the state.

GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] must sufficiently control its territory to support regional stability and prevent its use for international terrorism. Accomplishing this mission also requires a better understanding of the nature of the conflict, a change in the basic operational culture, concepts and tactics, and a corresponding change in strategy...

The people of Afghanistan represent many things in this conflict -- an audience, an actor, and a source of leverage - but above all, they are the objective. The population can also be a source of strength and intelligence and provide resistance to the insurgency. Alternatively, they can often change sides and provide tacit or real support to the insurgents. Communities make deliberate choices to resist, support, or allow insurgent influence. The reasons for these choices must be better understood.

GIRoA and ISAF have both failed to focus on this objective [emphasis added]. The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government. These problems have alienated large segments of the Afghan population. They do not trust GIRoA to provide their essential needs, such as security, justice, and basic services. This crisis of confidence, coupled with a distinct lack of economic and educational opportunity, has created fertile ground for the insurgency.

ISAF's center of gravity is the will and ability to provide for the needs of the population "by, with, and through" the Afghan government. A foreign army alone cannot beat an insurgency; the insurgency in Afghanistan requires an Afghan solution. This is their war and, in the end, ISAF's competency will prove less decisive than GIRoA's; eventual success requires capable Afghan governance capabilities and security forces. While these institutions are still developing, ISAF and the international community must provide substantial assistance to Afghanistan until the Afghan people make the decision to support their government and are capable of providing for their own security...

The major insurgent groups in order of their threat to the mission are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), the Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG). These groups coordinate activities loosely, often achieving significant unity of purpose and even some unity of effort, but they do not share a formal command-and-control structure. They also do not have a single overarching strategy or campaign plan. Each individual group, however, has a specific strategy, develops annual plans, and allocates resources accordingly. Each group has its own methods of developing and executing these plans and each has adapted over time. Despite the best efforts of GIRoA and ISAF, the insurgents currently have the initiative.

Insurgent Strategy and campaign Design

The insurgents have two primary objectives: controlling the Afghan people and breaking the coalition's will. Their aim is to expel international forces and influences and to supplant GIRoA. At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Omar announces his guidance and intent for the coming year ..¿. REDACTION.

The key geographical objectives of the major insurgent groups are Kandahar City and Khowst Province. The QST has been working to control Kandahar and its approaches for several years and there are indications that their influence over the city and neighboring districts is significant and growing [emphasis added, see start of this post and Update]. HQN aims to regain eventually full control of its traditional base in Khowst, Paktia, and Paktika. HQN controls some ofthe key terrain around Khowst and can influence the population in the region. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's HiG maintains militant bases in Nangarhar, Nuristan, and Kunar, as well as Pakistan, but he also sustains political connections through HiG networks and aims to negotiate a major role in a future Taliban government. He does not currently have geographical objectives as is the case with the other groups...

The QST's main efforts focus on the governance line of operations. Security and information operations support these efforts. IsAF's tendency to measure the enemy predominantly by kinetic events masks the true extent of insurgent activity and prevents an accurate assessment of the insurgents' intentions, progress, and level of control of the population.

Governance. The QST has a governing structure in Afghanistan under the rubric of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They appoint shadow governors for most provinces, review their performance, and replace them periodically. They established a body to receive complaints against their own "officials" and to act on them. They install "shari'a" courts to deliver swift and enforced justice in contested and controlled areas. They levy taxes and conscript fighters and laborers. They claim to provide security against a corrupt government, ISAF forces, criminality, and local power brokers. They also claim to protect Afghan and Muslim identity against foreign encroachment. In short, the QST provides major elements of governance and a national and religious narrative. HQN and HiG co-exist with, but do not necessarily accept, the QST governing framework and have yet to develop competing governing structures.

Information. Major insurgent groups outperform GIRoA and ISAF at information operations [emphasis added]. Information operations drive many insurgent operations as they work to shape the cultural and religious narrative. They have carefully analyzed their audience and target products accordingly. They use their Pashtun identity, physical proximity to the population, and violent intimidation to deliver immediate and enduring messages with which ISAF and GIRoA have been unable to compete. They leverage this advantage by projecting the inevitability of their victory, a key source of their strength.

Security. Major insurgent groups use violence, coercion and intimidation against civilians to control the population. They seek to inflict casualties on ISAF forces to break the will of individual ISAF countries and the coalition as a whole [emphasis added]...

ISAF Shortcomings. Afghan social, political. economic, and cultural affairs are complex and poorly understood. ISAF does not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities, nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, power-brokers, and criminality all combine to affect the Afghan population. A focus by ISAF intelligence on kinetic targeting and a failure to bring together what is known about the political and social realm have hindered IsAF's comprehension of the critical aspects of Afghan society...

...While the existence of safe havens in Pakistan does not guarantee ISAF failure, Afghanistan does require Pakistani cooperation and action against violent militancy, particularly against those groups active in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the insurgency in Afghanistan is predominantly Afghan [emphasis added]...

ISAF is not adequately executing the basics of COIN doctrine. Thus the first major recommendation of this assessment is to change and focus on that which ISAF has the most control of: ISAF. The coalition must hold itself accountable before it can attempt to do so with others. Specifically, ISAF will focus on two major changes to improve execution of COIN fundamentals and enhance organizational alignment and efficacy:

ISAF will change its operating culture to pursue a counterinsurgency approach that puts the Afghan people first. While the insurgency can afford to lose fighters and leaders, it cannot afford to lose control ofthe population.

ISAF will change the way it does business to improve unity of command within ISAF, seek to improve unity of effort with the international community, and to use resources more effectively [good luck, I must say sadly - MC]...

ISAF personnel must be seen as guests of the Afghan people and their government, not an occupying army. Key personnel in ISAF must receive training in local languages. Tour lengths should be long enough to build continuity and ownership of success [emphasis added, ditto - MC]...

...When ISAF forces travel through even the most secure areas of Afghanistan firmly ensconced in armored vehicles with body armor and turrets manned, they convey a sense of high risk and fear to the population. ISAF cannot expect unarmed Afghans to feel secure before heavily armed ISAF forces do. ISAF cannot succeed if it is unwilling to share risk, at least equally, with the people...

ISAF's subordinate headquarters must stop fighting separate campaigns. Under the existing structure, some components are not effectively organized and multiple headquarters fail to achieve either unity of command or unity of effort...

...The international community must address its own corrupt or counter-productive practices, including reducing the amount of development money that goes toward overhead and intermediaries rather than the Afghan people. A recent OXFAM report indicates that a significant percentage of such funding is diverted. ISAF must pay particular attention to how development projects are contracted and to whom. Too often these projects enrich power-brokers, corrupt officials, or international contractors and serve only limited segments of the population...

In a country as large and complex as Afghanistan, ISAF cannot be strong everywhere. ISAF must focus its full range of civilian and military resources where they will have the greatest effect on the people. This will generally be in those specjflc geographical areas that represent key terrain. For the counterinsurgent, the key terrain is generally where the population lives and works. This is also where the insurgents are typically focused; thus, it is here where the population is threatened by the enemy and that the two sides inevitably meet. ISAF will initially focus on critical high-population areas that are contested or controlled by insurgents, not because the enemy is present, but because it is here that the population is threatened by the insurgency.

The geographical deployment of forces may not be static; ISAF must retain the operational flexibility to adapt to changes in the environment [emphasis added]...

Proper resourcing will be critical. The campaign in Afghanistan has been historically under-resourced and remains so today -ISAF is operating in a culture of poverty. Consequently, ISAF requires more forces...The greater resources will not be sufficient to achieve success, but will enable implementation of the new strategy. Conversely, inadequate resources will likely result in failure. However, without a new strategy, the mission should not be resourced...

HQ ISAF must understand and adapt to the immediacy of the contemporary information environment through the employment of new/social media as well as cell phones, TV, and radio in order to promote interactive communication between Afghan and international audiences. This will involve a significant investment in technical architecture...

The growth of the ANA to 134k needs to be brought forward from December 2011 to October 2010 [emphasis added] in order to create sufficient ANA capacity to create conditions for rapid and sustainable progress in the current campaign; however, there is a requirement for further substantial growth (to an estimated endstrength of 240k) of COIN capable ANA troops in order to increase pressure on the insurgency in aU threatened areas in the country...

The ANP must increase in size in order to provide sufficient police needed to hold areas that have been cleared of insurgents, and to increase the capacity to secure the population. This assessment recommends further growth of the ANP to a total of 160k as soon as practicable with the right mix of capabilities that better satisfies the requirements of a counter-insurgency effort [i.e. not beat cops but gendarmerie]...

On 12 June, 2009 the North Atlantic Council endorsed the creation of NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan (NTM-A) to oversee higher level training for the ANA and for development of the ANP. CSTC-A and NTM-A will co-exist as a single HQ with fully integrated staff sections under a dual-hatted commander [emphasis added, more here]. As approved by the North Atlantic Council, the NTM-A will stand up in mid-September to generate forces and provide institutional training for the ANA and ANP...

1 Comments:

Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/25/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

12:02 p.m., September 25, 2009  

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