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ISAF

Afghan News RoundUp April 2013 - part two

Afghan Artists

Since 2001, Afghan artists have worked in relative freedom. Will it endure ?

The Taliban banned music. Public concerts are now common, though not universally. In March, in Ghazni province, a show was banned after local officials reportedly described music as "forbidden."

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In my statement to the House on 27 October, I said that the Government would update Parliament on developments in Afghanistan every month. This is part of our commitment to keep Parliament regularly informed. This first monthly report covers a range of issues: the Lisbon Summit, Afghanistan's Parliamentary Elections, governance and regional engagement. Future reports will update on progress in Afghanistan.

The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

Lisbon Summit

Afghanistan was at the heart of the NATO Lisbon Summit on 19-20 November, demonstrating the high priority that NATO places on its efforts to build a secure and stable Afghanistan.

All 48 nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reaffirmed their enduring commitment to Afghanistan's security and stability. They also welcomed the participation and support of other international partners at the Summit, including the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and Japan, with all of whom ISAF shares a common vision for a better Afghanistan.

The ISAF Commander, General David Petraeus, reported that progress had been made on several fronts: the momentum of the insurgency had been broadly arrested across Afghanistan –though not in all locations – and reversed in a number of key areas; the area under the Afghan Government's control continued to expand and the Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) was proving to be an increasingly effective force, having successfully provided security for two nationwide elections in 2009 and 2010.

ISAF partners agreed that they would work in partnership with the Afghan Government to deliver President Karzai's objective of transitioning lead security responsibility to the ANSF, in all provinces, by the end of 2014. Transition to Afghan lead security responsibility will be dependent on the conditions in each district and province. It will see ISAF's role evolve away from combat towards increased training, mentoring and support. The transition process is on track to begin in some provinces and districts in early 2011 following a joint Afghan and NATO/ISAF assessment and decision.

In advance of the Summit NATO asked ISAF partners to fill additional training positions that would help the NATO Training Mission to Afghanistan (NTM-A) continue to meet targets for expanding the Afghan National Army (ANA)and Afghan National Police (ANP). The Summit reported a strong response from partners. The UK had already announced a contribution of approximately 320 additional trainers. Canada confirmed that it would deploy a training mission with approximately 700 military trainers, 200 support troops and 45 police; Italy pledged an additional 200 trainers; Portugal 42; Croatia 30; and Bulgaria three additional mentoring and training teams. Other countries confirmed that they were considering new pledges, which would be discussed at a Force Generation Conference at the end of November.
Although the NTM-A priority shortfalls have therefore been met, the UK will continue to press our international partners to ensure that NTM-A continues to have the resources to fulfil its mission.

Looking beyond ISAF's current mission, NATO and Afghanistan agreed at the Summit the framework of a long-term partnership. NATO agreed to provide sustained practical support for Afghanistan, while the Afghan Government affirmed that it would be an enduring partner to NATO and committed itself to carry out its responsibilities in a manner consistent with the commitments made at the London Conference of January 2010 and the Kabul Conference of July 2010. These would include measures to combat terrorism, address corruption and support regional security. NATO and the Afghan Government will now agree the details of a co-operation programme to take forward this partnership.

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The stakes in Afghanistan are high. NATO's Comprehensive Strategic Political Military Plan and President Obama's strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al Qaeda and prevent their return to Afghanistan have laid out a clear path of what we must do. Stability in Afghanistan is an imperative; if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban - or has insufficient capability to counter transnational terrorists - Afghanistan could again become a base for terrorism, with obvious implications for regional stability.

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Afghan News Roundup compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service

Kajaki Dam resurfaces, Arab upset, Karzai's accusations, candidates in the clear and a first for Kabul's police, as reported in other countries

Millions more for Kajaki Dam

In February 2007, the Kajakai Dam was fought over by NATO and the Taliban as part of Operation Kryptonite. The governor of Helmand province, Assadullah Wafa, reported over 700 insurgents (including Pakistanis, Chechens and Uzbeks) coming via Pakistan to fight 300 NATO troops, mostly Dutch and British.

In October 2011, Coalition forces launched an operation to root out the Taliban and connect the notorious Kajaki Dam with the rest of province. This would allow the belated installation of a third turbine, providing electricity for tens of thousands.

Now another, possibly last ditch, effort has been launched to complete the project, which began in 2002 and has cost an estimated $500 million. Afghanistan's power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), under the guidance of USAID, has launched a contract competition to pick the company to install the third turbine. The two-phase project will likely cost about $75 million, and won't be completed until 2015.

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To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of NATO's International Security Assistance Force:

We serve in Afghanistan at a critical time. With the surge in ISAF strength and the growth of Afghan forces, we and other Afghan comrades have a new opportunity. Together, we can ensure that Afghanistan will not once again be ruled by those who embrace indiscriminate violence and transnational extremists, and we can ensure that Al Qaeda and other extremist elements cannot once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on our homelands and on the Afghan people.

This has been a hard fight. As you have soldiered together with our Afghan partners to reverse the Taliban momentum and to take away Taliban safe havens, the enemy has fought back ISAF and Afghan Forces sustained particularly tough losses last month. Nonetheless, in the face of an enemy willing to carry out the most barbaric of attacks, progress has been achieved in some critical areas, and we are poised to realize more.

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US Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills and his Deputy Commander, Brigadier George Norton, held a media briefing last Tuesday at the Ministry of Defence to report on security conditions over the past year in Helmand province, the region once referred to by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as 'perhaps the most dangerous place on earth'. Speaking via satellite link from Camp Leatherneck, the commanders noted 'sustained', 'continuous' and 'unrelenting' progress since the US troop surge last year.

'The insurgent leadership has fled the province', said General Mills. 'We believe that he suffers from a lack of money and a lack of recruits. His leadership has been decimated by our special forces.'

Reflecting on the 'very dark place' that Sangin district was a year ago when he took command of Britain's 8,000 troops and 20,000 US Marines in Helmand province, Mills said there was 'a powerful insurgency that controlled the bulk of the population and the majority of the terrain... that controlled the roads... and ran a very well organised and surprisingly sufficient supply chain... Today we see quite a different province'.

Over the last year, coalition forces successfully expanded and connected 'security bubbles' that have eliminated large encounters and lengthy engagements with the Taliban. Commanders now see a broken enemy supply line, a robust Afghan security force, repaired roads, new infrastructure, a 'flourishing' and even 'aggressive' free media and competent district governors. A national election also came off 'fairly and virtually incident free'.

Brigadier Norton emphasized the 'significantly reduced' numbers of enemy fighters on the ground, a trend he explained as the 'local' nature of the insurgency. Fighters are drawn from local villages and 'simply drift away' from the insurgency when faced with steady resistance.

Major General John Lorimer chaired the 15 March media briefing and discussed the recent successes of the 1st battalion Royal Irish Regiment in Helmand. 500 Royal Irish soldiers took part in a massive air assault codenamed Operation 'Black Winter' in Helmand's Nad-e Ali district, the biggest operation for 1st Battalion since the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. Previously one of the most dangerous insurgent strongholds in Nad-e Ali, Zaborabad is now safely under coalition control. Last month, 1st battalion also recovered a huge stash of deadly Taliban weapons and ammunition in Nad-e Ali, a find that Lorimer says is a testament to the improved level of trust between security forces and the local population. Everyday citizens often provide the most valuable intelligence on the whereabouts of Taliban fighters and their stored weapons.

Successes have come at a price, noted the commanders. The U.S., U.K., Denmark, Georgia and other coalition partners lost a combined 179 soldiers from enemy fire in Helmand over this period.

'There is still much work to be done', admitted Mills. 'The areas north of Sangin remain an insurgent controlled area.' Forces must link up with Kandahar and 'we have to address the Pakistani border at some point in the future', he added.

Commanders are expecting a renewed offensive by the Taliban-led insurgents in the spring and summer that will test the readiness of Afghan forces and could undermine some of the year's achievements. Efforts must coordinate with the gradual transition of security from NATO forces to the Afghan army, which begins this July and ends with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from the country by the end of 2014.

Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced details about the first transitional phase. Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, is among the seven areas to take part.

'We hold the initiative', Norton reassured. 'The challenge of it is to develop it and sustain it over time.'


 

Afghan News Round Up or August 2013 Compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News

Burial rites and wrongs, ISAF's unexploded ordnance, overnight bourgeousie, new tools for old tasks, 1400 sick of cholera

Two leaders, asleep in two beds

Two soldiers, tired in two trenches

Two leaders, smile behind the peace table

Two flags on the graves of the two soldiers.
- Sami Hamed

More follows

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The latest Afghan news round-up compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service includes Pashtunwali's rules, Afghanistan's Sikhs, the Taliban's drug wars and the memoirs of a carpet weaver

Air Support: Essential Lifeline

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps officer and a civilian adviser in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. He argues from firsthand experience that without 'some combination of easy-to-maintain transport helicopters and relatively inexpensive fixed-wing or helicopter armed-escort aircraft...the U.S. will have wasted 12 years of blood and treasure'. Put simply, abandoning Afghan ground forces without proper air support would be both militarily unsound and morally unconscionable' (WSJ, 2 June 2013)

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The US and its allies should take a much harder look at our partners against the Taliban, says Dan Jarvis MP, as the Commons international development select committee says the UK should reconsider its ambition of building Afghan government institutions in favour of more traditional aid targets.

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By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent

Recent events in Libya have served to distract from the UK's main defence effort at the moment, Afghanistan. This morning at RUSI General David Petraaus commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave a presentation which served to remind the audience of the scale and complexity of the enduring Afghan campaign. In October 2009 Petraeus' predecessor Gen McChrystal gave a stellar exposition of the situation as he found it. At the time ISAF was struggling to understand the nature of the insurgency and the means necessary to deal with it. McChrystal had at least started asking the right questions.

Now the situation has moved on. The talk is of the end game and transfer of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to its own army the ANA. To some extent Petraeus is a lucky general, just as his forebear was unlucky. He has inherited a situation which he summarised as "only recently have we got the inputs right". Only in 2010 was ISAF able to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which Petraeus characterized as gaining momentum from 2005 onwards. He is referring not only to the uplift in troop numbers, but also to the way ISAF does business in terms of building up the governance of the country, and "getting the big ideas right". Up until then there were too many competing organizations working in silos without talking to each other. So part of the governance piece has been getting the NGOs and contractors as well as the UN and EU working together.

The NATO Lisbon summit committed ISAF to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. In addition President Obama has committed to the beginning of a draw-down of US forces, beginning in July this year. In answer to some questions on this aspect Petraeus made the point that both NATO and some troop contributing nations, including the UK, were discussing with the Afghan government arrangements for post 2014. He would not be drawn on specifics but mentioned that one key element of the Afghan security forces was still being developed, namely "enablers". These are the vital support functions such as artillery, medical and logistic services, as well as air lift and command and control functions. This might be taken to imply that some elements of NATO's on-going support after 2014 could involve surveillance and special operations forces.

One of Petraeus' earlier appointments had seen him re-writing the US Army's counter insurgency manual, so here was the man who wrote the book explaining how it works on the ground. He was at pains to stress that the military element was only one piece in the jigsaw of COIN. He has also previously been quoted as saying that Afghanistan "is all hard, all of the time"; so he does not see that progress is yet irreversible. He also stressed how important it is to keep our own public opinion supportive of the costly nature of the campaign.

An intriguing piece of the COIN jigsaw is what is called "reintegration" by which is meant the various strands being used to encourage members of the insurgency to lay down their arms altogether or to change sides. On this matter Petraeus was matter of fact, but opaque. There are efforts in hand to encourage both the lower echelon fighters to stop fighting, as well as the higher echelons. More emphasis is being put into tackling local corruption, which is often one of the grievances which cause people to join the insurgency.

There is also recognition by the Karzai government that the culture of patronage has to be dealt with, including his own family. On their own none of these things is a winner; but added to the improvements in ISAF's tactical situation, they all add up to reasons for wavering insurgents to remain at home, or to change sides. A British officer, Maj Gen Phil Jones is in charge of the force reintegration effort, to get ex-Taliban insurgents into the ANA.

Petraeus' presentation was much more assured than the one given by McChrystal in 2009. Back then ISAF was striving for credibility in the capitals of the NATO nations, never mind how it was doing in the campaign against the insurgents. Petraeus has managed his tenure well and things seem to be going reasonably well, although he didn't want to sound complacent. He said that there was still hard fighting ahead. It is to be hoped that should there be setbacks, as there may well be, Petraeus will not also find himself carpeted by his President, but given the top cover he needs to finish the job.

 
 

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