The Duck of Minerva

The Transition

19 November 2010

In discussing the planned handover of security responsibilities to the Afghan National Army, Vice President Joe Biden stated:

“Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October — I mean in next July — so you’d better practice riding,” he said of the plan that will be outlined at the NATO summit in Lisbon.  (ABC News Radio)

The undiluted mix of imperialism and paternalism, while embarrassing from a public relations standpoint, is a good guide to how the US plans to spin the transition.  The US and ISAF will seek to shift responsibility and hence the blame for a precarious and faltering security situation onto the Afghan National Army.  Of course, no amount of paternalism will mask the fact that US and ISAF failed to properly resource and prioritize training a robust ANA and police force until last year.

The current strategy is reliant on a process of accelerated training, in order to swell the ranks.  It is a strategy that clearly emphasizes quantity over quality.  Whether such a strategy will lead to a competent force is highly debatable.  As a CSIS Report on the Afghan National Security Forces recently commented:

“Trying to expand Afghan forces too quickly, creating forces with inadequate force quality, and decoupling Afghan force development from efforts to deal with the broad weakness in Afghan governance and the Afghan justice system will lose the war. America’s politicians, policymakers, and military leaders must accept this reality—and persuade the Afghan government and our allies to act accordingly—or the mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed.”

A rushed transition designed to suit US domestic political priorities and national interests may jeopardize the prospects for a stable Afghanistan.  If the relationship between the US/ISAF and the ANA is that of parent to child as the Vice President asserts, then the parent seems to be guilty of criminal neglect and reckless endangerment.