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More Afghan police casualties

June 16, 2015

Summary: Bunker mentality.  Afghan police suffer large casualties in one night attack in Helmand.

More bad news for the Afghan National Police (ANP). On Saturday they reportedly lost 17 police officers killed in one night time confrontation with the Taliban. A base was surrounded and attacked in Helmand province in Musa Qala district. The base itself only held 19 personnel, the remaining two being wounded in the battle.

musa qala location mapPolice casualties have increased dramatically since the international forces withdrew.  A couple things to consider. Here we see the police once again being used as a second rate army. Poor command and control seems to have been a problem, with the Helmand provincial spokesman complaining that reinforcements were not sent to assist. But the Afghan security forces seem to have adopted a very static, defensive form of warfare, reliant on sitting in protected bunkers and checkpoints and allowing themselves to be surrounded.

Counter Insurgency warfare, where it has worked, seems to be a lot more about getting out on the ground – dominating it – engaging with the local populace and building up a good intelligence picture: understanding of who is who and what the dynamics are. Sitting inactive in a bunker yields the battlefield to the enemy. It is what the Soviets and the Najibullah army did. The reports suggest that the Taliban seemed to have plenty of time to take control of the area, planting IEDs and mines.

The other complaint is interesting:

“We do not have modern weapons to fight the Taliban and have no aircraft to target them”.

If you removed the word “Taliban” and inserted government”, this could easily substitute for a comment from the Taliban. Motivation and training are perhaps more important than modern weapons in this sort of conflict.  Seems like the Taliban have exactly the same problem but are still able to get an aggressive and pro-active attack going. Have the departing Europeans left a culture of technology-dependency behind?

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