After Action Report (AAR) by General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret) on his visit to NATO SHAPE Headquarters and Afghanistan -- 21-26 July 2008.
This memo provides a strategic and operational assessment of security operations in Afghanistan.
Full AAR at the link above. Excerpts (emphasis and links by SWJ) follow:
This report is based on a series of briefings and conversations at SHAPE Headquarters in Mons, Belgium and then subsequent field observations in Afghanistan while accompanying General John Craddock SACEUR during his command update visit. I am very appreciative that the JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen approved the trip and gave me his own take on the situation prior to my travel in theater...
This report is also based on continuous personal research, unclassified data provided in-country during this trip, and firsthand observations gained during my many field visits to both Pakistan and Afghanistan during the period 2003 forward to the current situation.
The conclusions are solely my own as an Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at West Point and should be viewed as an academic contribution to the national security debate. No one in NATO-SHAPE or the ISAF Command in Afghanistan has vetted this report.
Bottom-Line: Six Assertions
(1) Afghanistan is in misery. 68% of the population has never known peace. Life expectancy is 44 years. It has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world: One of six pregnant Afghan women dies for each live birth. Terrorist incidents and main force insurgent violence is rising (34% increase this year in kinetic events.) Battle action and casualties are now much higher in Afghanistan for US forces than they are in Iraq. The Afghan government at provincial and district level is largely dysfunctional and corrupt. The security situation (2.8 million refugees); the economy (unemployment 40% and rising, extreme poverty 41%, acute food shortages, inflation 12% and rising, agriculture broken); the giant heroin/opium criminal enterprise ($4 billion and 800 metric tons of heroin); and Afghan governance are all likely to get worse in the coming 24 months.
(2) The magnificent, resilient Afghan people absolutely reject the ideology and violence of the Taliban (90% or greater) but have little faith in the ability of the government to provide security, justice, clean water, electricity, or jobs. Much of Afghanistan has great faith in US military forces, but enormous suspicion of the commitment and staying power of our NATO allies.
(3) The courageous and determined NATO Forces (the employable forces are principally US, Canadian, British, Polish, and Dutch) and the Afghan National Army (the ANA is a splendid success story) cannot be defeated in battle. They will continue to slaughter the Pashtun insurgents, criminals, and international terrorist syndicates who directly confront them. (7000+ killed during 2007 alone.) The Taliban will increasingly turn to terrorism directed against the people and the Afghan National Police. However, the atmosphere of terror cannot be countered by relying mainly on military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition. The economic and political support provided by the international community is currently inadequate to deal with the situation.
(4) 2009 will be the year of decision. The Taliban and a greatly enhanced foreign fighter presence will: strike decisive blows against selected NATO units; will try to erase the FATA and Baluchi borders with Afghanistan; will try to sever the road networks and stop the construction of new roads (Route # 1 -- the Ring Road from Kabul to Kandahar is frequently now interdicted); and will try to strangle and isolate the capital. Without more effective and non-corrupt Afghan political leadership at province and district level, Afghanistan may become a failed state hosting foreign terrorist communities with global ambitions. Afghan political elites are focused more on the struggle for power than governance.
(5) US unilateral reinforcements driven by US Defense Secretary Bob Gates have provided additional Army and Marine combat forces and significant enhanced training and equipment support for Afghan security forces. This has combined with greatly increased US nation-building support (PRT's, road building, support for the Pakistani Armed Forces, etc.) to temporarily halt the slide into total warfare. The total US outlay in Afghanistan this year will be in excess of $34 billion: a burn rate of more than $2.8 billion per month. However, there has been no corresponding significant effort by the international community. The skillful employment of US Air Force, Army, and Naval air power (to include greatly expanded use of armed and reconnaissance UAV's : Predator, Reaper, Global hawk, and Shadow) has narrowly prevented the Taliban from massing and achieving local tactical victories over isolated and outnumbered US and coalition forces in the East and South.
(6) There is no unity of command in Afghanistan. A sensible coordination of all political and military elements of the Afghan theater of operations does not exist. There is no single military headquarters tactically commanding all US forces. All NATO military forces do not fully respond to the NATO ISAF Commander because of extensive national operational restrictions and caveats. In theory, NATO ISAF Forces respond to the (US) SACEUR...but US Forces in ISAF (half the total ISAF forces are US) respond to the US CENTCOM commander. However, US Special Operations Forces respond to US SOCOM... not (US) SACEUR or US CENTCOM. There is no accepted Combined NATO-Afghan military headquarters. There is no clear political governance relationship organizing the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and its many Agencies, NATO and its political and military presence, the 26 Afghan deployed allied nations, the hundreds of NGO's, and private entities and contractors. There is little formal dialog between the government and military of Pakistan and Afghanistan, except that cobbled together by the US Forces in Regional Command East along the Pakistan frontier.
The Bow Wave of the US Presidential Campaign
Afghanistan has become the good war and Iraq the war with issues. Neither characterization is relevant. Both candidates to be the US Commander-in-Chief have been placed in awkward stances by the political dynamics of the debate. They have been perhaps unfairly caricatured by sound bites of who will send the most reinforcing US Army combat brigades to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more US combat brigades from our rapidly unraveling Army.
This is a struggle for the hearts of the people, and good governance, and the creation of Afghan security forces. The war theater is principally for the Afghan-Pakistan frontier regions and the control of the four approaches to Kabul (although 29 of 34 provinces had clashes and bombings.) The combatants are tribes, religious groups, criminals, drug lords, and among ethnic groups (Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Turkmen). This is an attempt to create a state, not a battle to save one. This is clearly not a war between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is more a war of extremists against a population desperate for peace.
The battle will be won in Afghanistan when there is an operational Afghan police presence in the nation's 34 provinces and 398 Districts. The battle will be won when the current Afghan National Army expands from 80,000 troops to 200,000 troops with appropriate equipment, training, and leadership and embedded NATO LNO teams. (Afghanistan is 50% larger than Iraq and has a larger population.) The battle will be won when we deploy a five battalion US Army engineer brigade with attached Stryker security elements to lead a five year road building effort employing Afghan contractors and training and mentoring Afghan engineers. The war will be won when we fix the Afghan agricultural system which employs 82% of the population. The war will be won when the international community demands the eradication of the opium and cannabis crops and robustly supports the development of alternative economic activity.
Without NATO we are lost in Afghanistan. The next Administration must have a major diplomatic commitment to strengthen the capabilities and commitment of our 26 NATO allies.
NATO has 70,000 soldiers on three continents with eleven standing NATO military headquarters. The NATO-Russia Council, the NATO-Ukrainian Council, the 24 member nations of the NATO Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialog, and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative--- are all examples of the enormously effective integrative political and military role of NATO.
Current non-US NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan are in many cases woefully inadequate for the task they face. They have serious restrictive caveats to their military employment. They are casualty adverse in a very dangerous and brutal environment. They are in many cases lacking the force enablers that are a prerequisite to effective COIN operations...
Pakistan is a state of four separate nations under a weak federal government. The Pakistani military is the central load-bearing institution of the state. It is the most respected institution in Pakistan. The Army has severe military limitations in its ability to control the FATA and Baluchistan frontier areas.
A major US intervention across the Pakistan border to conduct spoiling attacks on Pashtun and criminal syndicate base areas would be a political disaster. We will imperil the Pakistani government's ability to support our campaign. They may well stop our air and ground logistics access across Pakistan and place our entire NATO presence in severe jeopardy.
This is a 25 year campaign. We must be patient in our expectations. We must do no harm dealing with Pakistan. We clearly can strike directly and covertly across the border in self-defense. We must never publicly put the Pakistani military in political peril with their own people.
Afghanistan: A Narco-State
The Taliban, Al Qaeda, war lords, and Afghan criminal enterprises are principally funded by what some estimate as $800 million dollars a year derived from the huge $4 billion annual illegal production and export of opium/heroin and cannabis. Some 40 principal figures (20+ in Kandahar Province) control this criminal activity which widely corrupts and weakens the governance of the nation.
Production of both opium and cannabis has surged throughout the country...
The international community has been fearful of confronting this issue. Unless we deal head-on with this enormous cancer, we should have little expectation that our efforts in Afghanistan will not eventually come to ruin.
Building the Afghan Security Forces
... We desperately need an additional 2300 police trainers. This is the central effort to win the war in Afghanistan.
The Afghan National Security Forces now have twice the ground combat power of the ISAF forces. There are 63,000 effective soldiers and 79,000 poorly equipped and trained police. The planned force structure is completely inadequate if our goal is US and NATO withdrawal in the coming decade. The ANA is a splendid instrument of national unity with ethnically mixed units and extremely motivated fighters.
The creation of the Afghan Security Forces is still poorly supported by NATO. Most of this is a US effort. Second-hand donated military equipment sits in Europe because NATO cannot find $7 million to pay for transportation. Many allied trainers are forbidden by national caveat from accompanying their Afghan units in the field as liaison elements.
The US is going to have to step up to this challenge...
The US Armed Forces
The combat effectiveness, courage, and leadership of our deployed joint military forces are simply inspirational. The leaders are battle-hardened, show enormous initiative, and can organize anything. They understand the inter-agency role of economic, cultural, intelligence, and information operations on counter-insurgency warfare.
We have never fielded more experienced and aggressive air and ground tactical units. As an example, the superb Marine 24th MEU in Helmand Province has killed 400+ Taliban fighters while losing 4 US killed and 9 wounded. This air-ground task force was in continuous battle for 35 days and DID NOT KILL OR INJURE ONE AFGHAN CIVILIAN. (Note there has not been one Afghan Army or Police unit with the Marines at any time during their battle in the south.)
The elite Army parachute infantry units from the 101st Airborne Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade operating in the north-eastern provinces (RC-East) have done magnificent work at nation-building while fighting aggressive, well-armed and trained foreign fighters and Taliban conducting cross-border attacks out of Pakistan. In June there were 39 Troops-in- Contact battles in Iraq: there were 419 Troops-in-Contact engagements in Afghanistan. This is dangerous work against a cunning and ruthless enemy...
Many of these troops and their leaders through general officer level are on their 4th or more combat deployments since "911." We have suffered 36,000 US killed and wounded. Their families are getting tired. The country is not at war. The Armed Forces and the CIA are at war. We are at the point of breaking faith with our troops.
Much of our ground and air equipment is falling apart. The anemic US Air Force and Naval modernization programs will place us in great risk in the Pacific in the coming decades. The Armed Forces are under-resourced and inadequately sized for the national security strategy we have pursued.
There is a serious mismatch between ends and means. We are going to wreck the US Armed Forces unless Congress and the next Administration address this situation of great strategic peril.
We cannot allow ourselves to fail in Afghanistan.
NATO is central to achieving our purpose.
This is a generational war to build an Afghan state and prevent the creation of a lawless, extremist region which will host and sustain enduring threats to the vital national security interests of the United States and our key allies.