Drawdown in Afghanistan; Recipe for disaster?
Some of the most fierce fighting in Afghanistan has been in and around the Helmand province. Ask any Marine or Soldier that has been to Marjah, and they will tell you that the area is far from secure. As you can see from the picture to the right, there have been over 900 casualties in Helmand province since the start of the War on Terror.
Recently the 'last' of the U.S. forces left Camp Leatherneck and turned it over to their ANA (Afghanistan National Army) counterparts. I was there as recently as 2013 under a DOD contract, and can tell you the Marines then were involved in pretty heavy fighting. That was also when 15 armed fighters breeched the parameter of Camp Leatherneck undetected and were able to destroy 9 aircraft and kill two Marines. Even though this was the worse aircraft loss since Vietnam, the Marine reaction to that was spot on, text book, and in my mind could not have been better performed. (The Marines were not responsible for parameter guard.)
I find it extremely hard to believe that from 2013 to the end of 2014 they were able to secure the province to the point they were willing to say "Mission Accomplished".
Please if you are a Marine that took part of the turnover let me know if you disagree! I'd love to hear it!
No relation to the story, but hub recommended a picture of me! So Christmas Afghanistan style!!
The question that came to mind when I first heard about the turnover is ok.. how can we ensure that a rogue group does not overthrow the Afghanistan troops currently installed.
As I mentioned before, Helmand has been contested ground from the start. There has not been a year since the initial invasion that we have not lost troops there. While the ANA has had training for years in preparation for the turnover, in my experience they are far from ready. A co-worker and I were sitting on the airfield in Leatherneck less than 2 years ago watching them train, and it was worse than a JROTC team. Nothing at all against JROTC, I love it when I was there, but I wouldn't expect a high school training team to fight off a paramilitary force! Nor do I expect the ANA to do anything except be a minor speed bump for the force that is coming.
ISIS In Afghanistan
I was asked the other day if I foresaw ISIS becoming an issue in Afghanistan after the drawdown. I really don't think so. The geography and culture does not support an ISIS like organization. There is just not the infrastructure to support an actual army.
Afghanistan was a great hub for Al Qaeda because of their antiquated and decentralized nature. ISIS is different; ISIS is fighting the social media war on line with the US. Al Qaeda, from its name, wanted to be the foundation of the jihad, with networks and branches throughout the world. By the way, Al Qaida was formed from the Mujahideen which we helped train to fight the Russians. Their training bases would be called Al Qaida (The base) and from there the name stuck for the organization.
Anyway, back on topic. ISIS on the other hand, view themselves as a state. One centralized expanding society that they see reaching throughout the world. This is a very different view which leads to very different methods of fighting. If you refer to another post I wrote, IS has methodically expanded their influence throughout Syria and Iraq until we took notice of them.
However, just because ISIS is not a threat in Afghanistan doesn't mean there isn't a threat. Unless we maintain a large special operations presence in Afghanistan, it will fracture within a year. There is already massive amounts of corruption throughout the country. Police chiefs will fracture and become warlords, individuals will create armies and take over warlords, and another extremest group will take advantage of the turmoil.
If extremest muslims offer nothing else, they offer organization and order which societies crave in a disordered environment.