NATO — Afghanistan

Short­age of Resources Spurs Risk Man­age­ment for NATO in Afghanistan

By Jim Gara­mone
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2008 — A short­age of resources for the NATO effort in Afghanistan has neces­si­tat­ed a risk-man­age­ment approach to oper­a­tions there, the com­man­der of the alliance’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force said at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence today.

U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill said NATO nations have not filled the force spec­i­fied in the alliance’s com­bined joint state­ment of require­ments.

“Even if NATO filled the require­ment, it would still pro­vide the min­i­mal force,” McNeill said.

Afghanistan is half again as big as Iraq and has a pop­u­la­tion of rough­ly 28 mil­lion. The gen­er­al said that if NATO fol­lowed U.S. coun­terin­sur­gency doc­trine, “well over 400,000” inter­na­tion­al and indige­nous troops and police would be need­ed for the effort.

More than 40,000 men and women from more than 35 nations serve in ISAF. An addi­tion­al 13,000 U.S. per­son­nel in Afghanistan are not under NATO com­mand, but coop­er­ate with the alliance forces. Afghan secu­ri­ty forces num­ber about 124,000.

McNeill said he accepts he will not get huge num­bers of inter­na­tion­al troops. “The trick, then, is to man­age the risk that is inher­ent in hav­ing an under-resourced inter­na­tion­al force and reach­ing the lev­el of capac­i­ty at which the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces ought to be,” he said.

The war in Afghanistan is a coun­terin­sur­gency effort, and in that envi­ron­ment, the best force to use is an indige­nous force, the gen­er­al told reporters. “And the best indige­nous force is a police force,” he said.

The Afghan Nation­al Army has made great progress in devel­op­ing its capac­i­ty, but the Afghan Nation­al Police have not done as well, McNeill said. The police are as much as 18 months behind the army. This has gal­va­nized inter­est among inter­na­tion­al part­ners to speed up police progress.

“By the end of the sum­mer, we might see a lot of progress with the police, yet we will still be short of the force need­ed to wage this war,” McNeill said.

ISAF is three maneu­ver bat­tal­ions short and also is short of air­lift resources and intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance assets, the gen­er­al said. Some 3,200 U.S. Marines will deploy to Region­al Com­mand South begin­ning in March, but these forces “are not the cav­al­ry,” he said. The Marines will come for a finite time to rein­force suc­cess.

“We had suc­cess on the bat­tle­field in the south in 2007; we’re look­ing for more suc­cess in 2008,” McNeill said.

ISAF has not remained sta­t­ic. Since McNeill took com­mand a year ago, the inter­na­tion­al force has grown by more than 8,000 troops. He said he antic­i­pates that more nations — notably Poland and Britain — will feed more troops into the fight. He also antic­i­pates that oth­er NATO coun­tries may announce dur­ing a NATO defense min­is­ters meet­ing in Vil­nius, Lithua­nia, lat­er this week that they will send more troops to Afghanistan. “This is not huge num­bers, but it will be most help­ful,” he said.

The Tal­iban insur­gency has nei­ther grown nor shrunk in size, McNeill said, but attacks have increased because NATO and Afghan forces are going more places in the coun­try. The strat­e­gy in Afghanistan is for coali­tion forces to “get out­side the wire, stay out­side the wire, (and) advance upon the ene­my,” the gen­er­al said. This, and not any Tal­iban resur­gence, has cre­at­ed the increased lev­el of vio­lence.

“If the Tal­iban were resur­gent, how come they have not accom­plished the things they said they would do in 2006?” he asked.

The gen­er­al said ISAF needs more police men­tors.

“The Afghan police, like the Afghan Nation­al Army, per­form con­sid­er­ably bet­ter when they have effec­tive West­ern embeds,” he said.

No one can deny that there has been progress in the secu­ri­ty sec­tor of the NATO mis­sion, McNeill said, or that the 25 NATO provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in recon­struct­ing the dev­as­tat­ed coun­try. “But I con­cede to you that our major effort in the line of gov­er­nance prob­a­bly has not pro­duced as fast a rate of progress as many of us … would like,” he said.

Few Afghan lead­ers have the req­ui­site expe­ri­ence and back­ground to run the dis­tricts, provinces and coun­try. Cor­rup­tion remains a huge prob­lem, but the Afghan bench is so thin that it is tough to replace cor­rupt offi­cials. McNeill said gov­er­nance progress requires patience and a lot of work to help devel­op Afghan polit­i­cal lead­ers.

“This is anath­e­ma to a pro­fes­sion­al sol­dier, but a cov­ey of pro­fes­sion­al, capa­ble bureau­crats would be very help­ful in Afghanistan,” he said.

McNeill said the Amer­i­can forces in Region­al Com­mand East are doing the best coun­terin­sur­gency job in the coun­try. He said basic dif­fer­ences exist between RC East and RC South, the oth­er region­al com­mand with sig­nif­i­cant fight­ing.

One dif­fer­ence is tour lengths. U.S. sol­diers deploy to the region for 15 months. “What this does is that the Amer­i­can sol­dier and his lead­er­ship in the east devel­op a rela­tion­ship with the ter­rain, the indige­nous peo­ple and their lead­ers and with the ene­mies,” McNeill said. “And they have suf­fi­cient time to exploit that rela­tion­ship to their advan­tage.”

Allies in the south gen­er­al­ly serve short­er tours.

A sec­ond dif­fer­ence is that “the U.S. Con­gress well endows com­man­ders in the U.S. sec­tor with recon­struc­tion mon­ey unen­cum­bered so they can apply that mon­ey in a pure and com­pre­hen­sive way,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)