Small Wars Journal

First Troops Among New Front-line Adviser Brigade Arrive in Afghanistan

First Troops Among New Front-line Adviser Brigade Arrive in Afghanistan by Phillip Walter Wellman - Stars & Stripes

A new Army unit created specifically to advise and assist conventional foreign military forces has begun deploying to Afghanistan.

The 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade — whose members will be dispersed at outposts throughout the country and be closer to the front lines of the war than most U.S. troops have been in years — is a key component of the Trump administration’s strategy for ending a stalemate with the Taliban.

Instead of advising high-ranking Afghan commanders, as is done now, the new brigade will work with battalion-level personnel. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have often cited this as a vital, missing component of their advising efforts.

The 1st SFAB’s leadership has arrived in Kabul, according to a post Wednesday on the unit’s Facebook page, and was welcomed by Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. More than 800 members of the brigade will arrive over the coming weeks in preparation for the spring fighting season, which generally begins in early April…

Read on.


I will get the the matter of the Security Force Assistance Brigades in a moment but, first, let's look at a recent Foreign Policy article; wherein, Emile Simpson suggests, in her title to this article no less, that "There Is No War in Afghanistan." Herein, Ms. Simpson suggesting that Afghanistan is a case of internal conflict -- not interstate war.

Ever since the Taliban government was toppled in late 2001, the heart of the strategic problem that has confronted the United States and its allies in Afghanistan has been the definition of victory: How does this end? We would all be better off if we first asked what “this” is. While Afghanistan is a war of sorts, it is not the sort of war in which there is likely to be a decisive moment of victory. Rather, Afghanistan is best described as an armed policing operation. ...

The categorical distinction between internal and interstate war is straightforward. What is surprising, therefore, is how far the distinction is ignored in the expectation that decisive victory is nonetheless available in internal conflict.

In a domestic context, everyone understands that policing is a continual activity. The idea is constantly to maintain order. There is no moment of victory as such but, rather, an ambition to achieve and maintain relative “stability,” which is only ever a provisional state.


In this same article, however, and in seeming contradiction to her such "internal conflict" argument above, look at -- in Simpson's historical example -- (a) who is "driving the train" (the British), (b) for how long (for nearly 100 years) and (c) in what context (imperialism?).


To think about the conflict in Afghanistan as an armed policing operation (in my book I call it “armed politics,” but it’s the same business of enforcing the writ of a government over its own state) makes sense historically. Take for example the British experience of policing the other side of the lawless “North-West Frontier” between what is today Pakistan and Afghanistan against rebellious Pashtun (then called Pathan) tribes. Virtually not a single year passed between 1849 and 1947 without some kind of large military expedition to quell unrest.



Thus, is it in acknowledgement of these such never-ending -- and indeed seemingly "imperial" -- "internal policing missions;" is it in acknowledgement of these such "what was old is new again" missions that our Security Force Assistance Brigades (a) are now being developed and (b) will now be employed?