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Truth, lies, Afghanistan and a Kandahar suicide attack

February 5, 2012

I was only going to highlight briefly the most recent of the suicide attacks against Afghan security forces in Kandahar.  On 5th February, nine people died (including five Afghan National Police members) and nineteen others injured in a car park next to a police building in Kandahar.  For all the justified criticisms of the ANP and its capabilities and developmental problems, this is going to be (if it isn’t already) the real front line against the insurgency in the coming years.  Casualties are much higher and under-reported.  I just don’t see the larger-scale “Marjah”-type operations coming out of the ISAF planners anymore.  Unless something goes spectacularly wrong (and a crashed C-130 full of troops would fit that bill), ISAF casualties will, for the second time in a row, be lower than the previous year.  But, as the battle transfers to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), it will become harder to get a real sense of what is going on.  My anecdote-only “flavour” from my brief period in Afghanistan in autumn last year was that the ANSF are much less effective than ISAF at reporting the scale, nature and casualties of incidents as they occur and the Afghan Defence and Interior Ministries similarly less capable at storing reliable data.  I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, but visibility of the overall “picture” is, for international political and military planners in Kabul and the national capitals, going to start to start clouding over.

But I came across this story as well.  A US Lieutenant Colonel apparently about to reveal on his own webpage (pending security clearance being given!) the extent of the disconnect between reality on the ground versus reports of progress.  It is worth a read – and full of “ANSF are rubbish” anecdotes – although his incredulity that an isolated ANP outpost does not immediately launch counter-attacks and harassing patrols when they come under insurgent attack is an interesting reflection on US military expectations in itself.

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