Small Wars Journal

No Narrative in Helmand Campaign

No Narrative in Helmand Campaign - John Mackinlay, Kings of War.

... The Taliban are fighting for their lives, and for some time have been completely aware that the effective build up of the ANA is one significant key to the coalition' s success and their failure. They are also completely aware that the trust that runs between the mentored ANA battalions and their mentoring coalition cadres is both the critical and the most vulnerable point of that build up. Sowing distrust between the mentor and the mentored must be their top priority. Above all contriving the murder of a mentor by a soldier of the host Afghan battalion drives a wedge between the two parties that is hard to overcome.

Crying despicable fails to emphasise that the mentor-mentored relationship is a critical point in the operational concept for both sides. Using words like "despicable" makes it seem like a surprising and egregious act, whereas in truth it is an obvious thing to do. Instead of crying despicable, generals and politicians need a more robust narrative or explanation for what is happening. Rather than exuding baffled surprise, they should be saying firmly : look, the key to success is the establishment of an effective Afghan security force so we must expect that the Taliban will desperately try to sabotage this effort. And they will try to do this by attacking the trust between our mentoring cadres and the Afghan forces with whom they are embedded. That is a critical point of our campaign plan and they are bound to go for it again and again. This means that because of the Taliban desperation, the task is both crucially important and very dangerous and from time to time there are terrible costs involved...

More at Kings of War.