Afghan Soldiers Abandon Counterinsurgency Patrols Taught By Coalition Forces
Look good and can’t fight.
Addressing more than 60 soldiers at the largest military base in volatile Helmand province, an Afghan commander preached classic counterinsurgency doctrine: patrol through a nearby village to constrict Taliban movements, assure citizens’ safety and gather intelligence.
It was the type of speech Western forces would give their Afghan trainees ahead of nominally Afghan-led joint patrols. The expectation of the NATO-led coalition, after more than a decade of fine-tuning the strategy in Afghanistan, was that Afghans would continue such operations after the foreigners withdrew.
The goal was to prevent the Taliban from regaining a hold in cleared areas, particularly Helmand, where more than 900 coalition troops —mostly U.S. Marines and British forces — were killed.
But seven months after the last Marines and British troops left Helmand, the similarities between counterinsurgency operations then and the Afghans’ take on them today ended with that pep-talk. The entire mission that day would quickly turn out to be a photo-op.
The bread and butter counterinsurgency patrols, carried out daily during the coalition’s height, have apparently fallen out of favor amid mounting casualties suffered by the Afghan National Security Forces.
At Camp Shorabak, when Lt. Muhammad Azizullah, the Afghan commander, barked an order, his men sprinted toward 14 U.S.-supplied armored troop carriers and Humvees and clambered inside.
The turret gunners racked their 50-caliber machine guns before the convoy thundered down the highway past shuttered coalition bases toward the village of Gereshk, about 25 milesto the south.
On the town’s outskirts, they stopped on a desolate street and a handful of soldiers got out. They milled about their parking spot for about half an hour, then turned the vehicles around and began the return trip.
After repeated questioning as to why so many men and vehicles drove an hour to park and then return to base, Azizullah, finally conceded, “It’s just for the pictures.” More