VSO/ALP

Comparing Past and Current Challenges to Afghan Local Defense

Introduction

In August 2010, President Karzai authorized the establishment of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program by presidential decree (p. 68). The program falls under the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and aims to train local Afghans in rural areas to defend their communities against insurgents and other illegally-armed groups. The program was designed, and is currently funded and supported by, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) in a broader initiative to enhance security and stability at the village level through the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program. 

The ALP was originally intended to be a temporary program, targeting a 10,000-man end strength by 2013. On December 11, 2011, U.S. Special Operations Commander Admiral William H. McRaven announced his intention to extend the program beyond its original mandate, and to exceed 30,000 ALP members by 2015. The announcement signaled an important shift in strategic thinking about the way forward in Afghanistan; one geared toward empowering Afghans to take over the reins of local defense, rather than relying on an undetermined level of national and coalition force presence to secure the countryside. However, the notion of expanding the ALP program has been met with skepticism from numerous media, think tank, and NGO (pp. 40-45)  reports that cite allegations of human rights abuse, corruption, and poorly-trained ALP recruits among the rationales for calls to disband the initiative altogether. Such competing perspectives of the value and efficacy of the ALP program underscore the need to examine the program in greater detail.

To this aim, this paper aspires to describe the VSO/ALP program within the Afghan context. The first section provides a brief history of post 9/11 local defense initiatives in Afghanistan and identifies how VSO/ALP differs from past programs. The second section highlights some of the challenges facing the initiative and discusses some recent successes that suggest that the program has the potential to emerge as a viable and enduring solution to security and stability in Afghanistan.

Local Defense Initiatives (2001-current)

Since 2001, the international community has created a number of armed security forces in Afghanistan, each with the stated intention of improving security and the lives of Afghans; each with its own set of problems that ultimately contributed to its demise. This section briefly describes the evolution of post 9/11 local defense initiatives in Afghanistan. It then highlights important distinctions between these programs and the current VSO/ALP initiative.

Afghan Security Force (ASF)

On December 5, 2001, a divergent group of Afghan factions signed the Bonn Agreement, which chartered the course for political, security, economic, and social development in Afghanistan. The document requested international assistance in a wide variety of areas including helping “the new Afghan authorities in the establishment and training of new Afghan security and armed forces.”[1] The document did not specify the type and organization of these forces, however, leaving U.S. and coalition partners to figure this out as they maneuvered throughout the countryside.[2]

U.S. Special Forces (SF) teams were some of the first boots on the ground during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Teams quickly sought out local militia forces, some of which were relics of the former Afghan Military Forces (AMF), to leverage these forces’ familiarity with the local security environment.[3] The primary objective at this stage of the fight was not to protect the population. Rather, the focus was on capturing or killing al Qaida fighters, and overthrowing the Taliban government that supported them. It was not until 2003 that U.S. and Coalition Forces (CF) put forth a concerted effort to formalize the practice of using local security forces with the creation of the Afghan Security Force (ASF).

The ASF, which drew its membership from Northern Alliance fighters, was largely used to protect Special Forces camps and conduct small-scale combat operations alongside SF counterparts.[4] Small unit SF teams established, trained, and equipped the ASF to provide local security as they moved throughout Afghanistan. The program focused on limited U.S. military objectives and was never intended to be a source of long-term protection for the local population beyond what was necessary to clear the Taliban. [5] Nor was the initiative designed to link into the central government’s vision of security for Afghanistan. As a detached entity focused strictly on U.S. security objectives to clear out elements of the insurgency, the program was cut off from key sources of domestic support. The independent nature of the initiative limited its effectiveness beyond immediate tactical security gains.

U.S. Special Forces had little reason to develop the program beyond these limited objectives, recognizing that empowering such disparate groups risked creating forces that might compete with any future plans to establish a permanent Afghan National Security Force (ANSF). The roughly 2,000-man force was demobilized in late 2005 and early 2006 after members were given $500-$2,000 in severance pay. A $500 bonus offer motivated others to join the ranks of the Afghan National Army (ANA) or the Afghan National Police (ANP).

Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP)

In 2006, the Afghan government and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTCA-A) established the Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP) as a quick-fix, temporary solution for combating escalating violence in the south.[6] Unlike ASF, the ANAP was a MOI-led program, with training assistance from coalition and private security personnel. The ANAP methodology included 10 days of training instruction in ethics and morality and basic policing and military skills. Upon completion recruits took an oath of loyalty to the government, received an AK-47 weapon, a police uniform distinguishable by an ANAP patch, and the equivalent of $70 USD per month salary (the same as an ANP). The ANAP’s mission set consisted of manning checkpoints and providing community policing in their assigned areas.

ANAP fielded approximately 9,000 recruits[7] scattered across six provinces (Helmand, Zabul, Kandahar, Farah, Oruzgan, and Ghazni), yet the program was unable to overcome a number of challenges including friction with Afghan National Police (ANP) operating in the area who had far more training and policing responsibilities than the new community force, but received the same pay. Poor oversight, and an ineffective recruitment and vetting process of the program also led to predatory behavior toward the local population. It further failed to keep out Taliban agents,[8] “petty criminals and drug addicts, many of whom defected or sold equipment to the insurgents.”[9] Though not a formalized policy, the initiative encouraged Shura elders to contribute recruits to establish a sense of local accountability. However, there was very little response in this regard. ANAP were not necessarily from the areas in which they operated and were thus not well-integrated into the local communities where they policed.[10] The lack of local legitimacy contributed to the ANAP’s dismantlement in 2007.[11]

Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3)

In March 2009, General David McKiernan launched the Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3) as a pilot program in Wardak province, hoping to emulate recent successes achieved in Iraq’s “Sons of Iraq” experiment. AP3 was a national program of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), linked into the central Afghan government through the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and subordinate provincial-level support.

GIRoA planned to activate the program in 40 “critical” districts centered on the Ring Road with ~200 tribesman per district, for a total of approximately 8000 men. AP3 also used district elders to recruit and vet potential recruits. The intent was to draw young men considered to be “fence-sitters” into a local security force representative of tribal groups in the area in order to gain broad-based trust and approval among communities.[12] The recruits were meant to serve as village “guardians” who could protect local infrastructure (bridges, dams, buildings, etc.) and act as an early warning system for insurgent activity in the area.[13]  Vetting procedures outlined in the Proof of Concept (POC) required local leaders to produce the list of names of candidates for the program after which MOI, NDS and MOD initiated background checks and medical screenings to weed out undesirable candidates. Following three weeks of training in local defense, ethics, and constitutional law, recruits were lightly armed and received a monthly stipend of $186 USD.[14]  

AP3 got off to a slow start as villagers, fearing Taliban reprisal, barely trickled into the ranks.[15] Officials responsible for the program eventually recruited former Taliban commander Haji Ghulam Mohammad Hotak, hoping the recently converted insurgent could encourage others to do the same.[16] The program demonstrated initial success as insurgent attacks in Wardak began to decrease. However, critics and local villages questioned the vetting and selection process, noting that Ghulam Mohammad may have inducted active, rather than former Taliban affiliates into the fold.[17] As with many GIRoA-led programs, AP3 also faced challenges due to budget constraints within MOI that made it difficult to establish a viable sustainment plan beyond the 2014 withdrawal date for U.S. and Coalition Forces.[18] The future of the program remains unclear, with some indications that AP3 members will be off-ramped into the ALP program. Other reports suggest Karzai intends to use AP3 to phase out and ultimately replace private security contractors (PSCs) hired by foreign governments, international organizations and private industry to protect employees and critical infrastructure while working in Afghanistan.[19]

Local Defense Initiative (LDI)

In July 2009, the Local Defense Initiative (LDI) (formerly the Community Defense Initiative (CDI), emerged as the next SOF-originated experiment in standing up an Afghan local defense force (pp. 54-55). The MOI-led initiative was administered by the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) and included partnered U.S. Special Forces support. The LDI approach sought to identify communities that had either actively sought out GIRoA or Coalition support in defending against insurgent elements or had already resisted insurgents on their own. Sources suggest that a disparate collection of LDI units were activated in Arghandab (Kandahar), Nili (Daikundi), Achin (Nangarhar), Gereshk (Helmand), and possibly Khakrez and Shindand (Herat) and Chamkani (Paktia)[20]

The program required some degree of self-sufficiency in that village defenders were expected to carry their own weapons. In the event of a security emergency LDI could rely on support from the local ANP as well as a 12-man SF unit, or Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), residing near designated LDI locations.

In a departure from past efforts, LDI additionally focused on facilitating limited development assistance for the local population. U.S. Congress granted the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) authority to approve up to $500,000 of bulk funds for development projects meant to provide collective benefits to the community in lieu of salaries for individuals participating in the program. Villagers took advantage of these funds in cash–for-work and crops-for-work projects such as seed and fertilizer distribution, retaining wall, road, and culvert construction (p. 19).

Like its predecessors, LDI enjoyed some initial successes in protecting the population but was also plagued by the same problems affecting past initiatives including corruption, a lack of oversight, limited MOI resources to support it, and subsequent negative public perceptions of its efficacy.[21] The program was subsequently modified and reshaped into the Village Stability Operation/Afghan Local Police (VSO/ALP) program.

Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police (VSO/ALP)

Operating concurrently with the MOI-led Afghan Local Police (ALP) program, the Combined Force Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) was the Executive Agent for all VSO policies and procedures until July 2012, when a new task force, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan (SOJTF-A), was established. The new task force combines special operations forces from several branches of the U.S. military and elite forces from 23 other countries as diverse as Britain, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.[22]

Despite the transition to a unified command, the Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police (VSO/ALP) program remains largely as it began in early 2010: a bottom-up counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that seeks to establish security and stability bubbles (or “white space”) around rural villages with an eye toward permanently shaping an area to support local governance and development (pp. 68-70). VSO/ALP focuses on a bottom-up effort that connects Afghan villages to the central government through an integrated approach to security, governance, and development. This is an important distinction from past efforts that seemed to concentrate mostly on short-term security gains rather than addressing deeper political, ethnic, tribal, and socioeconomic issues necessary to sustain these gains in the long run.

At the heart of VSO is a 12-man SF team that embeds in or adjacent to a local village. The team engages with the surrounding community and relies on Village Stability Platforms (VSPs) that provide a range of enablers for additional support. That support includes medical, air, and Military Information Support Teams (MISTs), as well as individuals focused on linking the district and provincial levels of governance and development to GIRoA. Provincial Augmentation Teams (PATs) and District Augmentation Teams (DATs) live near some of the provincial or district centers and build and maintain relationships with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) staff, Battlespace Owners (BSOs), GIRoA, and inter-agency representatives to assist the VSPs with development and governance issues. Many (though not all) SOF teams are augmented with Civilian Affairs Teams (CATs) for additional support in this regard (p. 67). Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) are an addition to the VSP enabler support package. These small, strictly female teams were launched in 2011 to engage women at the district and village level to enhance governance and development opportunities for rural women.[23] In addition, Village Stability Coordination Centers (VSCCs) coordinate and synchronize VSO efforts at the Regional Command while the Village Stability National Coordination Center (VSNCC) assists the collaborative VSO network with synchronization and coordination at the GIRoA national ministry and ISAF headquarters level.

This expanded pool of enablers allows teams to provide a significant amount of resources for strengthening local governance capacity, as well as increasing economic opportunities through development projects (irrigation systems, dams, schools, health clinics, sewing forums, etc.). The enablers also increase mentorship and support to the ALP. The logic behind this approach is to empower the community by providing tools to enable self-sufficient and thus more enduring ways to maintain a stable environment.

In addition to promoting governance and development, VSPs also provide close oversight, mentorship and training to the Afghan Local Police (ALP). ALP are defensive forces designed to provide small-scale, community-watch policing in their own village. ALP are neither equipped for offensive operations nor permitted to grow beyond the size in their tashkil (typically 30 per village and 300 per district). [24]  

CFSOCC-A (now SOFTF-A) designed a training course (21 days) consisting of a similar program of instruction (POIs) as past local defense initiatives (p. 67) which includes: basic security and policing skills, instruction on the Afghan constitution and penal code, basic literacy, human rights, and appropriate use of force. ALP members are supplied with uniforms, light arms (AK-47s), vehicles, and communications equipment, as well as pay, through the U.S. supported MOI logistics and sustainment processes. Also comparable to past programs, ALP conduct checkpoints or defensive patrolling in their home villages, and have detainment, but not arrest authority.[25]

However, there are notable differences that set the ALP program apart from past initiatives. For example, VSO/ALP is far more dispersed than past defense programs. At the time of this writing (November 14, 2012), there are now ~17,000 ALP operating in 84 validated districts across Afghanistan. This represents 57% of the 30,000 ALP and 62% of the 136 districts authorized in the current ALP tashkil. [26] SOJTF estimates those numbers to rise to 22,000 by July 2013, and to 30,000 by December 2015. The map below depicts the disposition of forces as of March 2012 (the latest available map provided to the author by the command.) (Figure 1)

Figure 1. ALP locations by district, March 2012[27]

CFSOCC-A source document, MAR12

The ALP program also differs from past local security initiatives in its formalized bottom-up/top-down approach to tying in districts to the central government. It requires prospective ALP districts to first self-nominate to the MOI for consideration into the program. MOI then conducts an evaluation and officially approves the district for VSO/ALP development. A district is considered validated when GIRoA officials meet with local officials to formally agree that there is a want and demonstrated need for an ALP site. The top-down component to ALP site selection also involves U.S. and GIRoA officials identifying and negotiating the need to establish a VSO/ALP presence based on strategic-level concerns (e.g., key terrain districts, GIRoA political considerations). Typical validation visits are attended by Provincial and District Governors and Chiefs of Police, Kabul officials (MOI, MOD, NDS, and IDLG/ ASOP), and local elders.[28]

The vetting process relies on the local Shura to nominate candidates and is a prerequisite to being accepted into the ALP program. The aim is to avoid some of the pitfalls experienced by previous programs that maintained rather loose vetting standards. The local Shura serves as a first filter by leveraging traditional Afghan mechanisms of accountability. The approach capitalizes on Afghan cultural norms which underscore family honor and respect for local community elders.[29] MOI provides further vetting (via a GIRoA in-processing team and the NDS) using background and drug tests as well as biometric enrollment in the program. All weapons issued to the ALP are registered and must be presented in order to receive the monthly MOI authorized funding. MOI requires ALP candidates to be 18-45 years of age (p. 68).

Once trained and enrolled in ALP, members become employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), sign yearly service contracts, work part-time and are paid approximately 60% of basic police salary ($120). ALP fall under the jurisdiction of formal MOI command and control mechanisms, which include the MOI Deputy District Chief of Police identified as the formal district ALP commander. Additionally, ALP units are closely partnered with coalition forces, which serve in a mentoring and advising capacity and facilitate access to provincial-level resources when necessary. All of this serves to establish a tangible link between bottom-up and top-down efforts to secure the Afghan countryside.

Another key adjustment is the shift to a more comprehensive and enduring approach to security and stability. Whereas past efforts focused on short-term priorities such as protecting U.S. military units traversing the battle space or defending key infrastructure, VSO/ALP addresses fundamental political, tribal, ethnic and socioeconomic challenges that impede sustainable progress. The VSO governance and development component, which utilizes a dedicated platform of enablers, offers key avenues of support in this regard. The CST component in particular, which seeks to engage the female population, is a potentially valuable asset not utilized in previous efforts.

In sum, VSO/ALP is an evolution of U.S. SOF-originated civil-military, COIN strategy in Afghanistan and the model appears to go beyond previous efforts to secure the countryside. The following chart highlights some noteworthy differences. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. Comparisons of Local Defense Forces

Challenges ahead

Despite key differences, the VSO/ALP program still faces similar obstacles that plagued past efforts. Sustainability issues continue to surface, jeopardizing the program’s future. The U.S. currently picks up the tab to support VSO/ALP.  However, questions remain with respect to how long this funding will last beyond the withdrawal of most US/CF forces in 2014. Identifying additional funding sources will remain a fundamental challenge.[30] GIRoA, and more specifically, MOI face significant budget constraints and will have difficulties supporting the main pillars of ANSF, much less a sub pillar that has thus far been viewed as more of an auxiliary piece, rather than a priority mission in the broader effort to establish a secure environment.[31]

Current thinking appears to focus on international donor nations to help subsidize the ALP program.[32] Yet growing impatience with a decade plus-long war, compounded by the negative global economic climate might not foster a generous outpouring of financial support. Additionally, “donor fatigue” could cause the international community to be increasingly reluctant to contribute if there is a sense that there is no end in sight to Afghanistan’s needs.  Media reports that criticize the program’s efforts will further exacerbate the problem.

Insurgent activity is also a persistent obstacle to VSO/ALP success.[33] Intimidation and attacks by Taliban and affiliated groups deter ALP recruitment. This type of coercion also increases attrition rates as active ALP members face pressure to resign their posts to avoid threats on their lives and the lives of their families. Additionally, insurgents frequently have tribal/familial ties to villagers which in some cases can facilitate enemy collusion and infiltration of VSO/ALP.  SOF teams have identified insurgent co-conspirators in positions of local authority and have noted instances where villagers funnel VSO development money to insurgent groups operating in the area.[34] Further exacerbating the manning issue, the program was forced to slow progress as roughly 1,000 new ALP and 16,000 current ALP underwent additional vetting over the summer of 2012 in response to the recent spate of insider attacks permeating the broader ANSF training mission.[35]

MOI’s logistical infrastructure is not ready for independence, illustrated by ongoing issues with slow-moving equipment and an inefficient pay system. For example, teams report trucks that have been issued, but without sufficient fuel sources; One team experienced an 8-month delay in supplies of weapons, ammo, and uniforms for ALP recruits. In many ways MOI’s logistical system is still heavily subsidized by U.S. logistical support and will require a significant amount of attention to stand on its own.[36] Maintaining a functional logistics system would be just one of a myriad of challenges to overcome once the program is fully transitioned to GIRoA. Should the program continue to expand, questions with respect as to how to effectively monitor the far-reaching program, much less how to maintain an increased labor force, will become priority issues to address.

Identifying and maintaining a quality cadre of ALP members is an unrelenting struggle as illiteracy, drug use, and corruption pose challenges to the program’s recruiting and sustainment capabilities. The impact of such factors also plays heavily into assessments by NGOs and media outlets, which remain vigilant in their efforts to identify and report on human injustices that continually put the Afghan population at risk. SOJTF-A recognizes that challenges persist with respect to the viability, integrity and sustainability of VSO/ALP and continuously works with its partners to remedy grievances highlighted in this regard.[37]

VSO/ALP successes

All this said, the VSO/ALP program has demonstrated enough potential to intrigue military planners as they seek ways to sustain security gains beyond the 2014 withdrawal date. For example, analysis provided by the RAND Corporation to the command shows that the presence of VSPs leads to significant improvements in security. Enemy attack data (SIGACTS) indicate that although violence levels increase by about 25% immediately after a team embeds in a district, the rate of attacks decreases to pre-embed levels after 15 months.[38]  (UPDATE: Enemy attack data (SIGACTS) indicates that although violence levels initially increase as teams embed in a district, after five months the rate of attacks decreases to pre-embed levels and continues to decline. Importantly, after 10 months the rate of attacks is statistically significantly below pre-embed levels despite the ongoing presence of the SOF team actively contesting the insurgency. (Daniel Egel, Alexander Rothenberg, Kevin Jiang, Unpublished research, December, 2012.)) The ALP program also appears to have garnered public support. According to a recent SOJTF survey, roughly 90 percent of local nationals polled expressed satisfaction with the ALP Guardians in their area, viewing ALP as helpful to the community and capable of protecting the local population.[39]  Consequently, it appears that VSO/ALP maintains a relatively high level of public support, suggesting the program has learned from some past mistakes with respect to the importance of garnering local legitimacy.

There is also an economic argument to be made for deploying ALP. COL. John Evans, then Deputy Commanding Officer of CFSOCC-A, noted in an interview with the media, "There is an economy aspect for the ALP for a government of Afghanistan that is going to continue to have to meet financial commitments as a young democracy. It does give them some options." Research suggests that ALP is dramatically less expensive than the main pillars of ANSF’s ~350,000-strong force. Current estimates indicate that ALP is 1/4th the cost of ANP, and 1/6th the cost of ANA, making it a sustainable and viable source of protection for local communities.[40]

Based on positive effects evidenced over the last year, there is now serious consideration underway that GIRoA’s ALP program should remain as an enduring part of Afghan National Security Forces.[41]  To that effect, in early November 2012, Deputy Minister of Interior Rahman proposed that the ALP be designated a component of the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP). This is a key step toward institutionalizing and sustaining the ALP beyond the inevitable withdrawal of U.S. forces. To some degree, even the NGO community has tentatively begun to acknowledge “the undeniable tactical impact” the ALP program can achieve. The Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) has in some instances attributed a significant reduction of insurgent attacks to the presence of ALP (p. 9). For example, according to the organization, Afghan opposition group (AOG) attacks decreased in Baghlan (60%), Takhar (76%), and Kunduz (39%) provinces during the third quarter of 2011. At least to some degree ANSO credited the ALP for the improved security environment.

Conclusion

Special Operations Forces are becoming the “military tool of choice”  in Afghanistan. Indicative of this, it was one of the few military communities to escape funding cuts in the 2012 defense budget, an implicit nod to Admiral McRaven’s vision for establishing security and stability in the future operating environment.  A significant part of that vision includes an expanded and enduring role for VSO/ALP. Although the program has avoided some of the failings of past programs and quantitative findings suggest the ALP is a positive step in the right direction, it must also work hard to overcome the negative stigma attached to the idea of arming and training locals to defend against outside forces. Ensuring local participation in the recruitment and vetting process to galvanize public support is a critical lesson learned from past efforts, as is tying the program into GIRoA. Establishing governance and economic opportunities is an additional attribute of VSO/ALP that stands apart as the approach tackles some of the deep-rooted political, ethnic, tribal, and socioeconomic challenges confronting Afghans in remote parts of the country. 


[1] Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions, (“Bonn Agreement”) Annex I, December 2001

[2] For an example of how small SF teams employed ASF partners in Eastern Afghanistan see, MAJ John D. Litchfield, “Unconventional Counterinsurgency: Leveraging Traditional Social Networks and Irregular Forces in Remote and Ungoverned Areas,” School of Advanced Military Studies, 2010, pgs. 35-40

[3] Kelly, Bensahal, and Oliker, “Security Force Assistance in Afghanistan, Identifying lessons learned for future efforts,” RAND Corporation, 2011, p. 20

[4] Jason D. Campbell,  “Making Riflemen from mud: restoring the Army’s culture of irregular warfare,” Strategic Studies Institute, October 2007, p. 19

[5] Kelly, Bensahal, and Oliker, p. 20

[6] Seth Jones, Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, RAND, 2010, pgs. 75-77

[7] MOI estimates indicate that ANAP was approved for ~11,000, yet actually only fielded 9,000 recruits at the height of the program. See Matthew Lefèvre, “Local Defence in Afghanistan: A review of government‐backed initiatives,” Afghanistan Analysis Network, May 2010, p. 5

[8] Andrew Wilder, “Cops and Robbers? The struggle to reform the Afghani National Police,” Issue paper series, AREU, July 2007

[9] “Afghanistan’s new militias: Self defence, a victory of hope over experience?” The Economist, April 8, 2009

[10] “Local Defense Forces in Afghanistan,” Afghanistan-Pakistan Center, March 2011, p. 10

[11]  For a good discussion of ANAP see Matthew Lefèvre, “Local Defence in Afghanistan A review of government‐backed initiatives,” Afghanistan Analysis Network, May 2010; See also, “There's marijuana in their socks: And their feet point the wrong way,” The Economist, November 16, 2006

[12] U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbeldick, “Wardak Security Improves,” Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs, August 27, 2010

[13] Catherine Dale, “War in Afghanistan: strategy, operations, and issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, March 9, 2011, p. 48

[14] “Afghan leaders, U.S. soldiers initiate new security program to empower local residents,” May 2009: http://www.army.mil/article/21071; See also Greg Bruno, “a Tribal Strategy for Afghanistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 7, 2008

“Afghanistan’s new militias: Self defence, a victory of hope over experience?” The Economist, April 8, 2009

[15] Greg Bruno, “A Tribal Strategy for Afghanistan, Council on Foreign Relations, November 7, 2008

[16] “Former Taliban Chief who became top policeman says peace will never come,” The National, May 25, 2010

[17] Joe Quinn and Mario A. Fumerton, “Counterinsurgency from below: the Afghan Local Police in theoretical and comparative perspective, Discussion Paper, November 2010, p. 17; See also, Mathieu LeFevre, “Days of the Living Dead,” Afghan Analysts Network, September 3, 2010.

[18] AP3 Sustainment Info Paper, CJSOTF-A, 02 April 2009

[19]  “Afghan Public Protection Program or AP3,” http://www.afghanwarnews.info/security/ap3.htm no date - accessed on ISW website on February 13, 2012. See also: ISAF remains committed to MOI lead in security programs,” DVIDS, December 27, 2011: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/81791/isaf-remains-committed-moi-lead-security-programs; Mark Checchia, "Private Security Companies Give Way to the Afghan Public Protection Force", Civil-Military Fusion Centre, October 2011: https://ronna-afghan.harmonieweb.org/CTCA/Shared%20Documents/CFC_Afg_PSCs-and-APPF_Oct11.pdf

[20] Dan Madden, “The Evolution of Precision Counterinsurgency: A History of Village Stability Operations & the Afghan Local Police ,” RAND analyst, CFSOCC-A Commander’s Initiative Group, June 30, 2011, p. 4; See also Mathieu Lefèvre, “Local Defence in Afghanistan: A review of government--‐backed initiatives,” Afghanistan Analysts network, May 2010, p.15: http://www.humansecuritygateway.com/documents/AAN_LocalDefenceAfghanistan.pdf

[21] Afghanistan (U) Local Defense Initiatives: Challenges and Opportunities, Defense Intelligence Digest, July 15, 2010: http://www.dia.smil.mil/did/2010/jul10/20100715/20100715_1.html, retrieved September 24, 2011; Joe Quinn, Mario A. Fumerton, “Counterinsurgency from Below:  The Afghan Local Police in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective,” discussion paper, November 2010: https://ronna-afghan.harmonieweb.org/CAAT/Shared%20Documents/Counterinsurgency%20From%20Below.pdf

[22] “U.S., Afghan elite forces merge,” USA Today, August 19, 2012

[23] Cultural Support Teams (CST) Fact Sheet, July 23, 2011.

[24] “MOI ALP Fact Sheet” by CFSOCC-A PAO, 8/18/2011. 

[25] “MOI ALP Fact Sheet” by CFSOCC-A PAO, 8/18/2011. 

[26] NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, Update, November 9, 2012

[27] CFSOCC-A source document, MAR12

[28] Based on author’s experience working at CFSOCC-A and attending ALP validation ceremonies from August-December 2011

[29] Based on author’s discussions with CFSOCC-A officials, September 2011

[30] CFSOCC-A could pursue several courses of action to help compensate for such fiscal challenges. Two come to mind: 1) Hire ALP to provide an additional layer of security for the 2013-14 provincial and presidential elections. The international donor community contributed almost $500 million for the 2009 Afghan election. GIRoA could channel some of this funding into areas where ALP conduct election-related security activities; 2) Seek out private sector investment that provides reciprocal benefits to both the ALP and the industries that utilize ALP as security providers. The mining and cell phone industries are two potential opportunities to explore.

[31] President Karzai presented a paper at the December 5, 2011 Bonn conference outlining the need for $10 billion in 2015 to cover expected shortfalls for the 2014 reduction in foreign presence in Afghanistan. The cost to sustain ANSF is estimated at between $3.5-$6 billion annually. See “At conference Afghans say they’ll need aid for years,” New York Times, December 5, 2011.

[32] Interviews with ISAF officials, December 2011.

[33] “Local Defense Forces in Afghanistan,” Afghanistan-Pakistan Center, March 2011, p. 12

[34] Interview with SOF team member, October 20, 2011

[35] “Statement of ISAF commander Gen. John Allen on insider attacks,” ISAF, September 6, 2012

[36] Interview with SOF team member, October 25, 2011

[37] For example, following the release of the September 2011 Human Rights Watch report that accused ALP of conducting human rights abuses, CFSOCC-A produced a memorandum formalizing pre-existing policy and procedural guidance on reporting allegations of crimes committed by Afghan partner forces. According to the memo CFSOCC-A personnel and all subordinate commands that witness or are otherwise made aware of abuse must report the incident up their chain of command as a Commander’s Critical Information Requirement (CCIR) as well as the Afghan chain of command within 24 hours of initial notification of the incident. CFSOCC-A will report any suspected abuse that violates a Law of War to appropriate Partner Force HQ (MOI, MOD, ANASOC). Where probable cause exists, CFSOCC-A units are required to cease partnerships with all perpetrators of crime or abuse. Reports are also fed into judicial channels through Judge Advocates who relay allegations to the CFSOCC-A Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) for additional review. Memorandum for all Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) Personnel, SUBJECT: CFSOCC-A Policy on reporting allegations of crimes and abuses committed by Afghan partner forces, 27 September, 2011.

[38] Walt Perry, Dan Egel, Radha Iyengar, Karin Kitchens, Unpublished research, December, 2011.

[39] NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, Update, November 9, 2012

[40] CFSOCC-A source document, Paul Emslie, RAND Analyst, CFSOCC-A/CIG, October 2011

[41] Interviews with CFSOCC-A officials, September-December 2011

 

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I appreciate Dr. Saum-Manning's comments on the overall VSO/ALP program and also the description of those programs that preceeded it. I think that it is important to recognize that this program is not perfect but that perhaps is the best program that we have at the time. The idea of parterning with, orgainzing, training, and equiping local forces is certainly not unprecedented but given the social and tribal dynamics present in Afghanistan, locally based security programs make sense. The difficulty comes when trying to tie these local initiatives to the larger Government of Afghanistan for which no precedent really exisits.
This I believe is where the greatest hurdle for success lie; building relationships from the local, to district, to province, and then national level. This effort ultimately can be supported and even encouraged by outside forces but given that it represents a massive shift in overall thinking for the Afghan people, it ultimately needs to be driven by them. The production and incresed success of ANASF may be a mechanism through which this can be encouraged.
Mike Gretz is an Army Major and the views expressed are his opinions alone and not necessarily those of the US Army.

I agree with Dr. Saum-Manning in this article and the Special Operations Forces will be the tool of choice in Afghanistan. Special Operations Forces will be able to a leverage the deep-rooted political, ethnic, tribal, and socioeconomic challenges confronting Afghanistan.

In my opinion the key to achieving our objective of empowering Afghans to take over local defense will lie mostly within the Special Operations community. Leveraging the local police forces through partnership and training will assist in securing outlying areas denying Taliban the means to establish foothold in Afghanistan.

Noel Bergeron is a Major on active duty in the US Army. These comments represent his own opinion and do not represent the views of any particular organization/unit.

I believe it is useful that Dr. Saum-Manning gives a breif synopsis of past local defense efforts that have been attempted in Afghanistan over the years. I would have to dispute the notion that VSO/ALP is the only effort that works along non security spheres. The original intent of the CDI/LDI was precisely community by-in. It was the original goal of CDI to leverage cultural and historical local defense with small, needed development projects that would cement community mobilization without pay. Governance was later added and the program morphed. The most important change was the shift from small scale projects to actually paying local defenders and their conversion to ALP. This is the most important shift and cannot be understated. The payment of local defenders, (who historically would have mobilized only for short emergencies), means that USSOF and CF in general are tied to a given local community until the community and ANSF can manage their own sustainment. This is a very daunting task that requires a lot of "benign neglect" in my opinion. Otherwise, the ALP remain addicted to USSF support mechanisms, the opposite of real "local" capacity. In my observation and opinion, the biggest weak point of VSO lies in the Governance line of operation. We do quite well in the security field, across the board USSF does it right when we have any partner force working and living with teams. In the Devlopment line, we are generally fond of misguided or overcost projects that are not sustainable, but these efforts do facilitate rapport and community mobilization for individual sites. The execution of development projects is something that should and can be trained on and many teams still can get it right. Governance is where we get our butts kicked. Why? It is the element that we have the least control and is inherently the one thing the Afghans have to get straight on their own. Advice, training and assistance are limited and the insurgents have exploited this quite well. In the South in particular, rule of law is almost non-existent in the vast rural aeas where the Afghans really live. I believe this is where major risk is being assumed. VSO efforts, even at CJSOTF and higher levels, cannot fundamentally effect the lack of governace in areas outside of major urban centers. No judge means insurgent, no redress of greivances means insurgent, no sense of justice means insurgent. I am not convinced that VSO efforts can be a game changer in the South as long as this line of operation does not really progress.

Alexandro Pedraza is a Captain on active duty in the US Army. These comments represent his own opinion and do not represent the views of any particular organization/unit.

"All this said, the VSO/ALP program has demonstrated enough potential to intrigue military planners as they seek ways to sustain security gains beyond the 2014 withdrawal date. For example, analysis provided by the RAND Corporation to the command shows that the presence of VSPs leads to significant improvements in security. Enemy attack data (SIGACTS) indicate that although violence levels increase by about 25% immediately after a team embeds in a district, the rate of attacks decreases to pre-embed levels after 15 months.[38]"
I am confused about the above. Why would individuals percieve the above data as successful? If acts of violence spike upon incorporation of the ALP (i.e., if security worsens) and eventually subsides to the same level the violence existed at prior to the local establishment of the ALP, security is actually unimproved, isn't it?

If we consider the purpose of VSO/ALP from the perspective of my comment below, then "security" -- measured in increments of violence alone -- would not necessarily be the data point that we would be looking toward.

Rather, "security," in my scenerio below, would also be determined by -- and would be measured in -- increments of state and societal westernization.

(The potential for significant levels of violence being, as noted, a "given" in certain of these endeavors.)

JAD

Picture two different Significant Actions (SIGACTS).

First - Man goes into a elementary school and shoots dead 26 defenseless people.
Second - Man seen by a passing patrol exiting a vehicle in an elementary school car-park with a rifle. He is challenged by law-enforcement and in the ensuing exchange of fire the gunman is killed.

Two SIGACTS with profound societal differences.

The essay explains this difference further into the text -

"The ALP program also appears to have garnered public support. According to a recent SOJTF survey, roughly 90 percent of local nationals polled expressed satisfaction with the ALP Guardians in their area, viewing ALP as helpful to the community and capable of protecting the local population."

Bill C

Going with the above - Do you consider it possible that Adam Lanza was a Jihadist or had some sort of Eastern agenda whereby he was attempting to de-Westernize Connecticut? Or was he just a violent criminal? Obviously a very small example but say Mexico which is even more violent than AF. Do you consider this a Jihad or an attempt at Easternization? Or just violent crime?

The people in Helmand et al are like the people in Connecticut in two important ways. Both want peace and both want prosperity. I struggle to understand how an aspiration to live in a Western or an Eastern community makes one iota of difference.

RC

RantCorp said:

"The people in Helmand et al are like the people in Connecticut in two important ways. Both want peace and both want prosperity."

The critical question, of course, is what price would the people of Helmand et al -- and/or the people of Connecticut -- be willing to pay in order to achieve peace and prosperity?

For example:

In exchange for peace and prosperity, would the people of Helmand et al -- and/or the people of Connecticut -- be willing to abandon their political, economic and social systems, and be willing to abandon the values, attitudes and beliefs upon which these systems were based?

Another example:

Would the people of Helmand et al -- and/or the people of Connecticut -- be willing to become communists in exchange for peace and prosperity?

Or do you believe that the people of Helmand et al -- and, indeed, the people of Connecticut -- might both willing forego peace and prosperity -- and might both willing fight and die -- rather than (1) abandon their individual ways of life, (2) abandon the principles, beliefs and practices upon which these individual ways of life were based and, in the place of these, (3) adopt foreign "heathen(?)" ways?

Going with the above - Do you consider it possible that Adam Lanza was a Jihadist or had some sort of Eastern agenda whereby he was attempting to de-Westernize Connecticut? Or was he just a violent criminal? Obviously a very small example but say Mexico which is even more violent than AF. Do you consider this a Jihad or an attempt at Easternization? Or just violent crime?

The people in Helmand et al are like the people in Connecticut in two important ways. Both want peace and both want prosperity. I struggle to understand how an aspiration to live in a Western or an Eastern community makes one iota of difference.

Adam Lanza was just some sick twisted individual that needed mental help.
There was no eastern agenda with him. As I said, he was just a nut.
Mexico is dealing with drug cartels, and they are fighting for position. It's gang wars.

Going with the above - Do you consider it possible that Adam Lanza was a Jihadist or had some sort of Eastern agenda whereby he was attempting to de-Westernize Connecticut? Or was he just a violent criminal? Obviously a very small example but say Mexico which is even more violent than AF. Do you consider this a Jihad or an attempt at Easternization? Or just violent crime?

The people in Helmand et al are like the people in Connecticut in two important ways. Both want peace and both want prosperity. I struggle to understand how an aspiration to live in a Western or an Eastern community makes one iota of difference.

Adam Lanza was just some sick twisted individual that needed mental help.
There was no eastern agenda with him. As I said, he was just a nut.
Mexico is dealing with drug cartels, and they are fighting for position. It's gang wars.

"Picture two different Significant Actions (SIGACTS).
First - Man goes into a elementary school and shoots dead 26 defenseless people.
Second - Man seen by a passing patrol exiting a vehicle in an elementary school car-park with a rifle. He is challenged by law-enforcement and in the ensuing exchange of fire the gunman is killed.
Two SIGACTS with profound societal differences..."

I agree that may be. However it is not clear from the above article or any of the dozens of other articles, stories, reports, etc, I've reveiwed on the subject of ALP and VSO, that while the scope and breadth of local violence has remained the same in volume, it has changed in typology so that violence has become more effectively a tool of legitimately local forces (i.e., affiliated with the state) rather than being a tool of coercion affiliated with criminals, insurgents, or local powerbrokers--or cultural precepts. Of course I haven't been to Afghanistan in some time and curently lack access to classified reporting. Perhaps I've just missed the open-source reporting.

JAD,

The essayist is a RAND Corp employee. This is lifted from the report -

" .... roughly 90 percent of local nationals polled expressed satisfaction with the ALP Guardians in their area....".

Obviously 90% is pretty significant in a country wherein natives like to break infidel balls as often as they pray. The bib dates this stat as Dec 9 2012 so it is current.

Now if are questioning the integrity of the RAND Corporation then you are in good company but the VSO program is about as far as you can get from the Big Army/AirSea Battle lobby that some suggest funds most of the RAND Corporation's work - but your skepticism raises a valid point.

Bright Shining,

RC

That's an excellent point, Bill C. I concur it seems the point of VSO is to increase Western-style "state-ization." However, there seems to be little commentary on if VSO is doing that (empirically or subjectively). Or whether that is really a good transformation for the Afghans.

Nonetheless, it seems that evaluation of violence and SIGACTs still predominates when it comes to discussion of "progress."

Sadly I feel like the men are raking the beach at low tide. They're doing a great job, but unless the overarching strategy effectively addresses the incoming tide, then to what end? Tactics without strategy equates to.....

ALP is not cheap!
ALP=16000 patrolmen

US Effort
2 infantry battalions 2000 soldiers
84 VSO district=84 equivalent ODA/SEAL/MarSOC platoon,at least 20 first-class warriors

together 4000 US soldiers(probably much more-without GPF logistics,fires and air support)

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year.
4 ALP patrolmen(Dubious Quality)to 1 US mentor
1 ALP gunman=$250000(How much is a service company Blackwater?)

ALP is not Afghan Local Police but rather SOCOM Apollo Lunar Program

As I read this I have a few thoughts that I believe are important:

1. It is easy to "drink the kool-aid" when an outsider is embedded like this author was. VSO-ALP is a well-designed, well-executed program being implemented by a very impressive team of SOF professionals. That alone can detract from objective assessments of the potential and value of the program toward the grand scheme of getting to a more stable, and peaceful Afghanistan.

2. IMO, the primary problems in Afghanistan reside within the governance of that country from the District level up through to the centralized government in Kabul under the Constitution of 2004. VSO/ALP operates below that level by design. So while VSO generates many positive effects at the local level, and serves to improve the connectivity between local officials and distinct officials, it by and large does not, and cannot, address the major drivers of insurgency in Afghanistan.

3. As we continue with transition in Afghanistan VSO/ALP should continue to operate at or near current levels even as other foreign dominated (US, NATO, etc) combat, capacity building and development activities are significantly reduced or turned off entirely.

4. Key to success in transition will be in our ability to adopt a fresh strategic perspective that is more respective of Afghan sovereignty than our actions to date have been, while at the same time is also more open to the reality that true promotion of democracy cannot at the same time be dedicated to complete exclusion of a huge segment of Afghan society (that we bundle under the label of "Taliban") from sharing in the legal governance and opportunity of their homeland.

In so many ways our strategic understanding, framing and approach to Afghanistan over the past 11 years have painted us into a corner that no local-level program such as VSO-ALP can get us out of. Key is to maintain a reasonable perspective as to what this program can, and cannot, accomplish; and to not let the progress that it has made at that level distract us from the much more critical changes and efforts that must be made at the policy/diplomacy level if we are to ever leave this place with our interests at less risk than when we first arrived.

RCJ wrote,

“4. Key to success in transition will be in our ability to adopt a fresh strategic perspective that is more respective of Afghan sovereignty than our actions to date have been, while at the same time is also more open to the reality that true promotion of democracy cannot at the same time be dedicated to complete exclusion of a huge segment of Afghan society (that we bundle under the label of Taliban) from sharing in the legal governance and opportunity of their homeland.”

The Taliban are considered to number approx twenty to thirty thousand (depending on the weather) irregular light infantry. From an Afghan population of 30 million I fail to see this as a “huge segment of Afghan society that we bundle under the label of Taliban”. Even narrowed down to the Pashtoon segment of the population, which numbers around 12 million souls, I am somewhat confused. Did you mean “a huge segment of Afghan society” consider the Taliban their legitimate representatives?

Seventy per cent of the current VSO/ALP units are located in villages that are ethnically Pashtoon so if the 30,000 target is reached in 2015 their numbers will be equal in number to the ranks of the Taliban. IMO the village-centric mind-set of any rural Afghan regardless if Pashtoon, Tajik, Hazari or Uzbek etc. would render these men, who are under the control of the village elders, the most legitimate form of authority - bar none. In fact I would consider it impossible for any outsider to get remotely near the level of local villager acceptance the VSO/ALP men would enjoy. I fail to see how some Talibs breezing in from Pakistan or Iran would have the faintest chance of approaching the level of cooperation this home-grown force would attract. Backed up by 12 man SF teams and other ASF units (now comprising 40% Pathans) I fail to grasp the view that the Taliban could approach this level of representative authority.

I do however agree the tendency to label all the opposition as Taliban does undermine the effort going forward. There are very distinct differences amongst the ranks of the Taliban. From what I understand there are 5 main factions. The Pakistani based foreign fighters, the original ISI trained Talibs, the Pak based Warlord fighters belonging to the Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of this world and last but not least the Afghan based anti-‘Northern Alliance’ Pashtoon resistance. All of these factions are in the main funded by narco-dollars from the Cosa Nostra and petro-dollars from the Wahhabis. With the exception of the Afghan based Pashtoon resistance I fail to see a level of legitimacy approaching the VSO/ALP members who police the villages they are born in and are paid thru the village elders by the MoI of the GIRoA.

I would hazard a guess that one of the reasons the program is gaining traction in the Pashtoon areas ( as opposed to earlier ‘carpet-bagger’ contractor efforts that failed) is that this program is attracting would-be Pashtoon resistance fighters as it addresses the fear (real or imagined) of a Tajik/Hazari hegemony impacting their local community. This drains the pool of disgruntled young men in much the same way the ‘Awakening’ in Iraq did when foreign extremist methodology impacted harshly on the native Sunni communities.

From a strategic viewpoint if you look at the map displaying the individual Tashkil displacements you will see it is forming a barrier set back from the border with Pakistan. IMO this counters the doomsayer’s argument that it is too little too late.

If Pakistan Army paranoia regarding their western frontier compels them to provide sanctuary to an ISI controlled Taliban the VSO/ALP doesn’t have to be rolled out anywhere else in the country. If the program is allowed to consolidate along the AF/Pak border it can exert pressure on one of the conflict’s prime drivers if not the CoG itself.

RC

The overall goal seems to be to "open up" these more-closed and more-different states and societies and to transform them such that they might become less of a problem for -- and more of an asset to -- the international community/the global economy. To make these states, societies and regions into "better communities" and "better citizens" so-to-speak.

This, it is believed, requires that we transition these populations:

a. Away from their affiliation with and dependency on current social, political and economic structures -- and the currrent values, attitudes and beliefs upon which these such structures are based -- and

b. Toward an affiliation with and dependency on more western-like social, political and economic structures -- and the values, attitudes and beliefs associated with such structures.

Realizing that such an undertaking will, in certain cases, meet with significant resistance, can programs such as ALP/VSO -- today and in the future -- help us (1) overcome such resistance and (2) achieve our goals?

What is amazing is that the problem of insider threat has been 1) a growing trend since 2007 BUT did anyone hear big Army bring it up until it was hard to hide from the press, 2) over a year ago the Taliban issued a Fatwa calling for the killing of US personnel and 3) Mullah Omar has called for increased killing in August 2012 and it is now a standard Taliban TTP ie see the last attack using a female.

BUT if one is to believe JIEDDO/CALL/TBOC the insider threat is all about cultural issues not a hardcore TTP which begs the question what has big Army/defense contractors been teaching for Afghan culture in the last ten years?

Secondly, where does the Army teach that the SFAAT world demands a complete attention to detain in 360 degrees for your personal security and or the security of the SFAAT team---this is what police officers have learned in the last 50 years and SF knew from their VN experiences.

Sgt. William R. Wilson III, 27.Killed March 26, 2012,2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.He was shot three times in the face and neck by an Afghan local policeman on March 26, 2012, in Paktika province.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Britton-Mihalo, 25.Killed April 25, 2012,2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.He was slain April 25 by an elite counterpart with the Afghan special forces on a base the two sides shared in Kandahar Province.

The Aug. 10 attack by the ALP officer in Sangin killed Capt. Matthew Manoukian, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke and Staff Sgt. Sky Mote,1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.The three were killed at a security meeting, following an early-morning meal with the Afghan police officer. The Taliban and the district chief of Sangin district of Helmand province identified the assailant as a member of the Afghan National Police who was helping Marines train the Afghan local police.

Staff Sgt. Gregory T. Copes, 36, of Lynch Station and Petty Officer 1st Class Darrel L. Enos, 36, of Colorado Springs, Colo.Killed August 17th.Assigned to the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion.When one of the Afghan officers was handed his service weapon, he fired on American service members.The Associated Press reported on a shooting in the province involving a new Afghan police officer. They identified the shooter as “Mohammad Ismail, a man in his 30s who had joined the Afghan Local Police just five days ago.”

Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe, both of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3 YORKS), were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday 15 September 2012.The two men were shot and fatally wounded by a rogue Afghan Local Policeman in Checkpoint Tora in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

What is it?ALP Progress?

My question is why do you trust these people. The military has the mindset of if we're going to work together, I have to trust you.
You see where trust gets you. As a police advisor to the ANP,assigned to SOTF South and a police officer from Metropolitan Police Department Washington DC for 16 years, cops don't trust anything.

Just because I work with you doesn't mean I have to trust you. That's what
keeps us alive. We are always watching our " friends." Guess what, your friends can screw you too.

As far as the ANSF is concerned, in unconventional warfare, this is a tool they(Taliban/Insurgents) use to destroy from within,infiltration. In the SOF community I'm suprised that more people are not aware of this. Since SOF are the Unconventional warfare experts. This tactic should not surprise anyone.

Remember, this is guerrilla warfare, and we are there to do counter guerrilla operations. The vetting process is not going to change. With that being said, it's up to all of us SOF, Police advisors, military pesonnel to watch your back and don't trust them.

I think it is important to remember that murder of fellow comrades is as old as war itself. There seems to be a media hysteria that ‘the sky is falling’ attitude to the murderous act of a native on a foreigner but a somewhat different response if the deed is infidel on infidel.

In Afghanistan it is customary that the instigator of a treacherous assassination is more than likely to be a nephew. Despite the fact that it seldom occurs it is widely acknowledged as ‘traditional’. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 being the mother of all green on blue attacks in this neighborhood. However what is often overlooked is that the Mutiny was mercilessly put down by forces which were comprised 80% native troops.

Treachery’s prevalence in warfare is underlined by its frequent appearance in some of the most celebrated and reliable accounts of armed conflict. Alexander the Great only just avoided murder by his own father as a youth owing to a perceived future threat. As it happens these suspicions were well-founded as he ascended to the throne owing to his father’s murder at a relative’s wedding whereby he proceeded to murder various cousins to consolidate his ascension. His subsequent reign was punctuated by numerous murders of rivals – real and imagined - up to and including Cleitus - a trusted childhood friend and comrade who had previously saved his friend's life by chopping off an assailant’s sword arm as it came down on a defenseless Alexander.

If this is how the great and the good settled their differences it is fair to speculate that it was much worse among the ranks wherein the opportunities where more frequent but ignored by recorded history. I would argue that little has changed and it will always be thus.

In VN after records started being kept from 1969 the incidence of ‘fragging’ ran up to 500 a year with 10% being fatal. This record was only concerned with attacks using fragmentation grenades. One can only speculate how many ‘wild’ bursts or ‘negligent’ discharges which resulted in fratricide were done with varying degrees of malice.

I am reminded of a conversation I had many moons ago with an old paratrooper sergeant who described this very problem among the ‘Greatest Generation’. He explained that one of his more unusual tasks immediately before an airdrop was to get troopers who were bearing a grudge over money, girls, bullying, barroom sucker-punch etc to settle their differences. It was generally accepted that the high casualty rate in parachute assault meant individuals expected only a 50-50 chance of coming back (which proved optimistic). Taking full advantage of the chaos which is somewhat unique to the first hour/s of a massed insertion of paratroopers some unforgiving individuals were determined to make certain “..that asshole has no chance.”

Most disputes could be settled face to face or by moving the feuding individual/s to different units. However some were marked men and no matter what was done they were doomed. The stigma of their supposed ‘crimes’ would follow them ‘thru the grapevine’ even into a new unit of complete strangers. What surprised him on D-Day and still startled him 40 years later as he recounted the events was some individuals didn't even hit the ground before they were shot dead by their comrades.

Git Some,

RC

Nice run down. But I think we need a little more history written about 2001-2002 from people who were there. I want to read about the proposals that were made by those on the ground and that were not accepted by those not on the ground. Then there can be an analysis of what might have been (though of course this is all water under the bridge but it would be worth knowing that if people on the ground early on had been listened to, things might have turned out differently - though in the end tactical actions are no substitute for poor or no strategy).