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Transition (phase three): opinions differ…

May 16, 2012

By Tim Foxley

Huge areas of territory have been handed over to the charge of the ANSF as part of the staggered “transition” from ISAF control to Afghan military control.  Now every one of the 34 provincial capitals are the security responsibility of the Afghans, along with three-quarters of the country.  But there appears to be a slight difference of opinion in Afghanistan as to the readiness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  ISAF and the Afghan government have this week been welcoming the third stage of the transition of security responsibility:

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) welcomes the release of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s list of areas intended for the third stage of the transition of security responsibility in the country.

The Afghan government will now enter the third of five tranches as they continue to move forward in the process of taking the responsibility of national security from ISAF.

“President Karzai’s announcement of the third group of areas to enter transition is a testament to the capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) who will now be responsible for the security of more than 75 percent of the Afghan population.” said Gen. John R. Allen, ISAF commander.

Three-fourths of Afghanistan’s population will be living in areas that will have transitioned from ISAF to ANSF following the “tranche three” implementation.

“Afghanistan continues to move forward in securing the sovereign future of their country and the security of its borders, and this is another step in bringing the hope of greater prosperity to the Afghan people,” said Allen.

However, the Afghan parliament have been making some considerably less supportive noises.

ANSF Unable to Take Security Responsibilities: MPs

KABUL – Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are not able to take security responsibilities and the third phase of transition will face major challenges, Afghan MPs said Tuesday.  The MPs also cited that the decision made yesterday by President Hamid Karzai to start the third phase of security transition should be revised because Afghan forces are still not fully trained and equipped and are not able to hold security without the help of another major military force.  Herati MP Saleh Mohammad Saljoqi believes that the conditions are not yet set for the Afghan forces to take the important responsibility of holding security.

“We are still not ready for the start of third, fourth and fifth phases of transition because the situation is not ready for the Afghan Police and Army. They are not fully trained and equipped yet,” Mr Saljoqi said

“Afghan forces need many years to learn how to fight such incidents.  It was a rapid decision. We hope we should have a break to get ready for the transition,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kunduz MP Fatemah Aziz believes that hasty security transition could deteriorate the situation in the country.

“Even with the presence of foreign forces, our public figures are getting killed, we are in a situation that if the transition takes place, we will go towards insecurity,” she added.

What ISAF and NATO appear to be trumpeting as a strength – that the transition process is and will remain on track – is also potentially a significant failing.  There seems to be little flexibility in the system in the event that the ANSF experiences difficulties or that difficulties emerge in the months and years to come.  I guess, technically, ISAF (and the Afghan MOD) are in the best position to judge whether the ANSF are ready.  Some of the Afghan military experts quoted in the Daily Outlook piece seem obsessed with getting even greater amounts of equipment of even more modern types.  But, given the politics involved, the brutal realities of this process of rushing out a large number of boots on the ground and the looming deadline, two things are certain:

  • The career of any ISAF officer who now stands up and says “hang on, these ANSF guys are simply not ready”, will be numbered in minutes
  • Essentially, the Afghan parliament, concerns notwithstanding, is unlikely to have any say in this process

Also, in one of the podcasts I was recently listening to (but which escapes me – maybe Brookings?), the point was made that you can push all the uniforms, weapons and training you like into an army, but what determines the quality, capabilities and morale will be the extent to which it is able to distance itself from corrosive political agendas at the strategic command, ministry and government levels.  I doubt if the ANSF training programme is addressing this.  I hope, however, that ISAF nations have at least addressed the issue of contingency plans in the event that the ANSF falters before 2014 or after.  Maybe they will do so at Chicago.


Go on, just say it…

Slight aside:  Have you noticed how Anders Fogh Rasmussen always seems to veer dangerously close to stating what NATO really thinks:

“Whatever the Taliban do to us, they will not cause us to waver from our firm commitment to leave.”??

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