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“Rising danger of insurgent infiltration within the ANSF…”

April 24, 2012

By Tim Foxley

I just wanted to highlight this interesting paper: from Sami Kovanen and Amador Guallar.  A long-winded title perhaps, but it covers a lot of useful ground.  The one page summary at the start and the one page conclusion at the back probably gives enough of the core analysis if you want the rough idea quickly.

It looks at the ongoing and growing problem of insurgent supporters and infiltrators embedding themselves into the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) or being co-opted after they had legitimately joined the ANSF.  This trend – which is undermining trust at all sorts of levels (ANSF/ISAF, ISAF/Afghan government, ANSF/population, etc) – is being wilfully exaggerated and distorted by the insurgents – well you would, wouldn’t you?  But because the ANSF is expanding so fast, the capability of the Afghan MOD and ISAF to thoroughly vet all recruits is very limited.

The paper suggests that this is not restricted to military units, but might also affect NGOs and international organisations.  Insurgent infiltration was well documented during the Soviet time.  Although rightly highlighting the idea that the extent of “infiltration” (as distinct from misrepresenting yourself by wearing ANSF uniform – another growing problem) is unclear, it convincingly describes methods and tactics employed by the insurgents.  They suggest there are three types of infiltrator – “pre-planned” by the insurgents, i.e. deliberately planted.  “Individual” infiltrators, acting on their own initiative.  “Turnarounds”, who previously supported the ANSF and the Afghan government but had a change of heart.  Low-ranking individuals are identified by insurgents and “cold-called” to see which particular motivation works best.  The paper suggests that these infiltrations are assisting many of the more effective complex attacks that are striking into Kabul.  The paper convincingly suggests a kidnapping of a senior military or government figure (there is precedent from the Soviet occupation) as a possible future attack option for the Taliban using insider assistance.

Motivations of individual infiltrators are a mix of conviction, bribery and threats – the desire to have a foot in both camps to ensure ending up on the winning team is a classic Afghan defence mechanism in recent years and is also highlighted as a key factor.  This really strikes me – if you, as an Afghan, see ISAF packing up and pulling out with an uncertain future for the country, you really need to think more pragmatically about the safety of your own immediate family/clan/tribe and who might be the dominant force in your local area, be it warlord, government or insurgent.

Summary in their own words:

“Infiltration has become one of the insurgents’ key strategies…[and]…is now more organized and systematic than in previous years…In 2011, infiltration attacks…have become more frequent.  The same trend is predicted to continue with increasing tempo throughout the year 2012.  It is impossible to verify how deeply and widely insurgents have infiltrated Govt of Afghanistan structures and ANSF, but information…suggests that the lower ranks are already penetrated by the insurgents and troubling indications have emerged that mid- and possibly even high-level positions could be compromised.  …

Besides inserting infiltrators through normal recruitment processes, insurgents are also using other means to get inside targeted organisations.  These may include motivation through finance or material gains, coercion, threats or blackmail…

…Dysfunction within the ANSF, widespread corruption, and lack of resources has made infiltration relatively easy for insurgents.  Until the fundamental problems within the whole system are fixed, the insurgents’ infiltration will continue in the coming years and further attacks should be expected…”

Sobering stuff

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