'They come from ISI' - Afghan colonel on insurgent threat


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Lieutenant Colonel Nasratullah Nasrat, the commanding officer of the 3rd Kandak (Battalion) of the 1st Brigade of the 203rd Afghan Army, meets with Captain Aaron Tapalman, commander of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry. Photo by Bill Ardolino/LWJ.


COMBAT OUTPOST SABARI, AFGHANISTAN: To maintain the fight against the insurgency as US forces begin to depart Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force is banking on a strategy of accelerating the development of indigenous security forces. Many functions hitherto executed by US troops have been passed to the Afghan army and police, and most American operations in the country now take place in partnership with Afghan forces.

In Paktia and Khost provinces, the area of operations (AO) for ISAF's "Task Force Duke," the number of partnered missions is estimated at "about 80 to 85 percent of all operations," according to its commander, US Army Colonel Chris Toner. Having also held a command in the area five years ago, Toner sees great improvement among the security forces, particularly the Afghan Uniform Police, and to a lesser extent, the Afghan National Army (ANA). His assessments of progress in those entities are lent credibility by his dour take on the Afghan Border Police, whom he describes as "just as bad as they were five years ago."

But within the Sabari district of Khost province, a historic center of operations for insurgent groups and one of the most troublesome areas in Task Force Duke's AO, US advisers offer mixed, though ultimately negative assessments of their local partners. American officers have some praise for the Afghan Uniform Police, and single out their new police chief as an enthusiastic leader. But that force is small; fewer than 60 officers police the district. Thus, the main local security responsibility in Sabari resides with about two companies of Afghan National Army (ANA).

Americans who work with the ANA in the district on a daily basis are cynical about their partners. US soldiers grant that their Afghan counterparts conduct some operations effectively, communicate with the population infinitely better than they can, and are generally willing to fight (or at least "willing to shoot," according to one soldier). But the Americans offer scathing reviews of the ANA's tactics, initiative, supply and administrative capability, and general ability to do anything without direct US support. Some bright spots exist: Americans dub certain Afghan non-commissioned officers and junior officers as "superstars" who "get after it." But because advancement in Afghan society is often reliant on ethnicity and tribal ties rather than merit, these competent individuals are frequently supervised and held back by less qualified or energetic officers from different social strata.

The events during a recent patrol reported by The Long War Journal highlight some good and bad characteristics of the Afghan Army in Sabari. The negatives are significant: the ANA were tactically inferior (something this reporter has thus far witnessed to varying degrees on patrols with different Afghan units in Khost), and they deserted their American partners when the patrol took contact. On the positive side, the ANA do regularly patrol, they suppressed the above attack effectively before retreating, and the soldiers' rapport with the population is good. While many civilians held the Americans at arm's length, the ANA were greeted with ease and even friendliness by many of the locals. This augurs the possibility that Afghan security forces could represent a viable face of government authority in place of the traditional insurgent power brokers in the area, if they can hold their own against rebels after US forces diminish.

The events of the patrol mentioned above require context: the Afghan contingent was led by a platoon leader deemed among the worst by his American partners. In an incident last month, the lieutenant, who is believed to frequently smoke hash, began to abusively question a four-year-old boy in a nearby village. When an American stepped in to intercede, laying a hand on the lieutenant, members of the ANA platoon cocked their weapons and "drew down" on the US soldier before the situation was defused. In contrast, other platoons are better led, and even some of the soldiers working for the troublesome officer show skill at counterinsurgency. But the Americans' inability to instigate the removal of such an incompetent leader, due to suspected tribal and family ties, highlights the inherent challenge of building a viable force that can stand up to the Taliban after 2014.

This reporter recently sat down to interview Lieutenant Colonel Nasratullah Nasrat, the commanding officer of the 3rd Kandak (Battalion) of the 1st Brigade of the 203rd Afghan Army. An ethnic Pashtun with 25 years of experience in the Afghan Army, Nasrat has spent his entire career stationed in Paktia and Khost provinces. Two things seemed especially notable about his answers: Nasrat's disbelief that the US will really withdraw by 2014, and his blunt assessment of Pakistan's role in the Afghan insurgency. It has been this reporter's repeated experience interviewing leaders of indigenous security forces that there is a strong cultural bias toward pinning responsibility for the violence on foreigners, while absolving locals of blame. But in the case of this interview, Nasrat's assessment of Pakistan's role in destabilizing Afghanistan actually mirrors assessments by multiple US officers and intelligence officials, with the difference that it is on the record.

[Note: This interview took place before the aforementioned problematic patrol.]

The Long War Journal: How have Paktia and Khost changed in the past year? Has security in the area gotten better, gotten worse?

Lieutenant Colonel Nasratullah Nasrat: I've been serving in Khost mostly. As far as Khost, it has improved, especially the road that we're trying to emphasize, the KG Pass. It's one of the main roads that leads from Khost to Gardez, which is in Paktia [province].

LWJ: What type of operations are your men doing to improve security?

LTC Nasrat: I control five districts: Sabari, Bak, Jaji Maidan, Khalander, and Musa Khel. Sabari and Bak district are where we engage with Coalition forces and work on missions together.

LWJ: How is that working out?

LTC Nasrat: It's really good, it's been improving. We take security patrols every day, sometimes it's less or more, depending on the situations. In the other three districts where we don't engage with Coalition forces, we take control ourselves as the ANA. We go on patrol ourselves and take charge.

LWJ: How many troops do you have in Sabari?

LTC Nasrat: We have two companies in Sabari.

LWJ: Describe who the enemy is; who are the people who are fighting your forces and American forces?

LTC Nasrat: They go by the name Talib, but we know they come from ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate).

LWJ: Can you elaborate? Why do you believe the insurgents are products of the ISI?

LTC Nasrat: Then where do they come from, the sky?

LWJ: But what specifically indicates the relationship? What clues do you have that ties the insurgents back to Pakistan?

LTC Nasrat: Well, historically, it's Pakistan's fight more than it is ours. They're the ones who have the resources, and we lack the resources coming from Pakistan's ISI. So where are the Afghan Taliban getting the resources from? The Taliban in Pakistan have been under pressure. They are pressured to come here and fight, and the ones that do come here, the majority are Pakistani.

LWJ: Explain to me what type of support you believe the ISI give to insurgents here.

LTC Nasrat: Qazi Hussein Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rahman, they are Pakistani Taliban [leaders], they work for the ISI. The ISI provides them with resources and of course money. And they're the ones who are fighting in the name of religion in the worst possible ways. And they're the ones who are looking for other people to provide them resources - whether it's weapons, money, anything - besides the resources they get from the ISI. They are the ones who hire poor people who need money, leading them to [attack Afghan and Coalition forces]. They just want to keep the war going in Afghanistan, they just don't want to let it go.

[Note: Nasrat clarified that the two individuals he named, as well as many of the individuals he refers to as "Taliban," are those associated with Hizb-i-Islami.This was likely a translation error related to "Islamic Party," however. The two men are associated with the organizations Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islami Fazlur Rahman (JUI-F), both of which use radical madrasas to recruit fighters for the Taliban, as well as maintain ties to the Pakistani security forces.]

LTC Nasrat: Those two men are the leaders, they are like Haqqani Network leaders, but they are not Haqqani. ISI gives those men money, and they distribute money to the insurgent organizations to keep the fight going in Afghanistan.

LWJ: And some of these organizations are local?

LTC Nasrat: They are in Pakistan. But everything comes from the top, which is ISI. They convince the people to fight in the name of Islam for the wrong reasons and have them fight here. Khost is only a popular focus because of the Haqqani Network.

LWJ: But it is my understanding that even though Haqqani is currently based in Miramshah in Pakistan, they are originally from Afghanistan, and they have many Afghan operatives.

LTC Nasrat: Yes, Haqqani is Afghan, but the other two I mentioned are from Pakistan.

LWJ: But aside from those two and the insurgent cells they fund, it is my understanding that Haqqani is fighting here too.

LTC Nasrat: Yes, and they are also linked with the ISI. Yes. And I've even heard he [Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network] has kind of a rank within the ISI as well, though it is a rumor.

LWJ: So Haqqani, Hizb-i-Islami, other Taliban, they are all fighting within Sabari?

LTC Nasrat: The Taliban has two groups. One is the local Taliban. The local Talibs are not strong at all. The other group [outside Taliban] is linked to Haqqani and ISI. Those are the most dangerous insurgents, they care about nothing and are afraid of no one. And the third group are those who are linked to [Qazi Hussein Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rahman]. It's a mixture of all of these groups, who include local people who are poor and get involved for money.

LWJ: It's my understanding that the Americans have taken as many as over 500 mortars and rocket attacks in past years, and this year it's only been a little more than 50 thus far; it's also my understanding that Haqqani and Hizb-i-Islami were hit pretty hard by US and Afghan special forces. Do you think this lull in the fighting is because the insurgents are weak, or because they are waiting until the Americans leave?

LTC Nasrat: The enemy has many faces. They may emphasize on one area [for a time], but they never stay in one place. So, as far as security, yes, it has gotten better, but for the most part the insurgents get pressured in one place so they move and start up in a new location. Recently [insurgents] have been active in Musa Khel (a district immediately west of Sabari), now it has quieted and the insurgents are constantly moving around. Especially the night raids conducted by US Special Forces and Afghan commandos have scared them out of the area because that's when it's best to capture the enemy. They don't quite know what kind of missions we have, but they have realized [it is hurting them] and have been pressured [to move].

LWJ: What other places are they operating from now?

LTC Nasrat: They are looking for a weak place. And when they find a weak place, where there are less Coalition forces, they target it.

LWJ: Do you believe the insurgents are licking their wounds, gathering their strength and waiting for the Americans to leave, at which point they'll renew attacks in Sabari?

LTC Nasrat: Yes. I think they are waiting for that, and they assume, hope for, that the Americans will one day leave. But I can't confirm it.

LWJ: And when that day comes, when the Americans leave, do you believe you are equipped to handle the insurgents?

LTC Nasrat: Of course. My men are ready to fight if they are provided the right resources, like weapons.

LWJ: Explain to me the strengths and weaknesses of your Afghan Army. You say they are ready to fight, but what are the resource issues?

LTC Nasrat: Their strength is pride and ego. They don't back down when they have a duty to do, they will stand and fight, even if they have nothing to fight with. They have a lot of pride, courage, and enthusiasm in them. But their weakness is, they don't have the right weapons.

LWJ: You say weapons, but what about other resources: equipment, food ....

LTC Nasrat: Food-wise we are good to go, equipment-wise we are good to go.

LWJ: But from speaking with various Americans throughout Afghanistan who advise the Afghan Army, I tend to hear that while Afghan soldiers may fight, that the army has trouble with logistics. For example, obtaining and maintaining fuel, food, equipment, and other more mundane administrative areas, without American support. To what extent do you have these issues and how do you plan to address them?

LTC Nasrat: Yes, with logistics we can be a little weak and that's just a military thing. The military is a little weak in providing us things like, for instance, fuel. That is something I have to find a way to get on my own. So we do get help from Coalition forces as far as fuel, as well as air support, but as far as everything else, even our military, from the top [echelons], there are certain things they can't provide because maybe they don't have the resources.

LWJ: So as the Americans pull out, how do you plan to fill that gap [in logistics]?

LTC Nasrat: I can't really answer that, it's really not up to me. It's up to the [Afghan] government. I don't know what will happen.

LWJ: How does the everyday citizen in Sabari district - the farmer, the shopkeeper - view the Americans, the Afghan forces, and the insurgents?

LTC Nasrat: There are two kinds of people in the district. One group includes those who want to work with us but they fear the Talibs and can't do much. And the second group works with the Talibs and they don't really like us. The percentage is high for the first group, but I can't give you an accurate number.

LWJ: I've heard that the district government here in Sabari is weak, that it has very few hired officials, and I've also heard that the tribal structure is very fractured and also very weak. Given those conditions, what is the durable alternative to the insurgent groups? What will be a stable force that average citizens can look to besides the insurgents?

LTC Nasrat: I agree, [the government] is weak. We have men's shuras [tribal meetings]. And if the government is weak and they can't look to the Coalition forces or the Afghan Army, we have male shuras where the citizens can talk about problems and how they can fix them.

LWJ: I've heard that the tribes are weak and the tribal system is fractured here, though. Some of the tribes don't get along with each other, and some of the tribes don't have as much authority as they have in the past. Elders bemoan that "Pashtunwali [traditional tribal code] is dead." Do you see that changing?

LTC Nasrat: There is a person in the area who has authority, his name is Khan Zorman [an elder with the Zambar subtribe of the Sabari tribal confederation], he is the tribal leader.

LWJ: You think he has enough authority to bring the disparate tribes together?

LTC Nasrat: Yes, he is the tribal leader. He will do it through tribal shuras.

[Note: Sabari has a weakened tribal system in comparison with other areas of Afghanistan. When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, many members of the large Sabari tribal confederation fled to Pakistan. In their absence, other tribes and Kuchian (nomads) moved into the district after their departure. The lingering effect is a diminution of central tribal authority and a fair amount of infighting between the members of the Sabari tribe, who returned to vie with each other and the newcomers. This presents challenges to ISAF and Afghan government efforts to engage the tribes as a cohesive counterweight to powerful insurgent groups. Zorman is considered the most respected tribal leader in Sabari, but even his power is finite relative to Coalition goals. He is also believed to play both sides of the fence.]

LTC Nasrat: In the shura there are also some members of the Taliban who are part of it. And when Zorman is in the district, he doesn't even need to ask the government for anything, because he handles all issues.

LWJ: Some of the Taliban participate with the shuras?

LTC Nasrat: The local Taliban; they don't come to the shura, but they have a say in the shura, and they want to find out what is going on in the shura.

LWJ: What do you think is the long-term security solution here? What is going to stabilize Sabari, especially after US forces leave?

LTC Nasrat: That's not going to happen as long as Pakistan is involved. As long as Pakistan is there, there will never be security, because they don't want that.

LWJ: So how do you personally deal with that, as a man who has fought for years?

LTC Nasrat: That's a very hard question, it would take me an entire day to answer it. We don't accept the border with Pakistan; parts of Pakistan belong to Afghanistan.

LWJ: Yes, but how are you personally going to deal with this fact: when the Americans pull back, and Pakistan is still supporting these insurgents fighting in Afghanistan, are you resigned to the possibility of fighting a war for the rest of your life, or is there a solution?

LTC Nasrat: Even if I have to die, I will protect and provide security for Afghanistan. It is my duty and what I signed up for.

LWJ: What do you think of the looming American withdrawal [ostensibly by 2014]?

LTC Nasrat: Of course security will go bad. I don't think just here [in Sabari], I think international security will worsen. In my opinion, I don't think the US will really withdraw anytime soon.

LWJ: Do you read or watch the news [about withdrawal]?

LTC Nasrat: Not so much, I usually don't. I know a few are going to withdraw, but I don't think that all the Coalition forces will be leaving. There will be some sort of security here.



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READER COMMENTS: "'They come from ISI' - Afghan colonel on insurgent threat"

Posted by Paul D at August 21, 2011 12:24 PM ET:

More proof that we are fighting a proxy/covert war versus Pakistan in the name of religion!

Posted by Chris at August 21, 2011 4:11 PM ET:

For clarification,LWJ doesn't really believe in the 2014 withdrawal does it?If so,then this projects a strong sense of naivete.God knows,the Afghans want us to stay for as long as possible anyway,and the Guardian even broke a story about a deal being reached to keep US troops in Afghanistan until 2024 that will probably be signed off on before the Bonn Conference in December.Clarification,here?

Posted by Bill Ardolino at August 21, 2011 5:28 PM ET:

@Chris -
1. define "withdrawal." The US will undoubtedly maintain presence in Afghanistan for years beyond the stated timeframe. But the surge period is the highest US forces will ever be under current policy, and troops will be making staged exits in relevant numbers. This will impact ISAF development of the ANSF, as well as ability to maintain pressure on the insurgency.

2. A basic interview technique includes questions that solicit opinions affirming or rejecting the stated policy pronouncements of elected officials.

Regards.

Posted by Glenn Woodruff at August 21, 2011 9:11 PM ET:

I hope we do not pull out and abandon the Afghan people (as we did in 1989) again. I find the date 2024 interesting as I think based on two deployments to Afghanistan that might be the soonest that Afghanistan could have a strong and performing centeral government.

LTC Nasrat has a point if Afghanistan was to become secure they could protest the Dowd Line at the UN and present a good case to get the bourder moved to what it was before the Dowd Treaty. That would give Afghanistan an Ocean Port of Kharaci.

Sorry my spelling is just plain bad,

Posted by CC at August 21, 2011 9:42 PM ET:

2014 is an Afghan presidential election year. If you see another rigged election, expect International forces to come home en masse. This puts pressure on the Afghans to build better governance. If a legitimate govt is elected, expect the U.S to stay as long as needed.

Ending corruption and establishing proper rule of law will take the wind right out of the insurgency's sails. Militarily, I think we are just about at that point where only so much can be done. The rest of the battle has to be the Afghan government tackling its own internal problems.

Posted by Charu at August 21, 2011 10:46 PM ET:

Follow the money. Who is paying for the mortars and rockets fired on our troops? The ISI. And who's their sugar daddy? We are. Rick Perry is wrong about who's commiting treason.

Posted by gary siebel at August 22, 2011 12:07 AM ET:

Politics and US economic debt will require our Afghan withdrawal. Blame it on the wasteful Iraq adventure. Obama will want to declare victory and leave, something many have suggested should have been done early on in Vietnam.

Continual payment to the ISI provides them incentive to continue the war.

In the previous report on the battle, why were they so far away from their vehicles? Rommel would have been appalled. And why weren't they ready to spend the night, or many nights?

I spoke with a POW earlier this evening, captured by the Taliban --and escaped (talked to a sniper last week), and suffice to say the tactics by the US military have failed to adapt to the situation properly -- going in. They seem to catch on over time, but they seem to be bound by Euro based war philosophy.

Afghan is tribal based, not city based, like Europe -- you have to move in with the tribes, not set up a distant base from which you sojourn occasionally to blow up villages. You have to live in the villages themselves (grow your beards -- too late they discovered that simple fact), and control the madrassas.

Of interest is what's happening with the jihad in Nigeria. CIA (?) needs to interdict the road from Khartoum to Nigeria. Judging from Afghanistan reports, send the drones searching for white, Toyota SUVs.

To "drone" will likely become as much a verb as to "Google."

Posted by Al at August 22, 2011 8:23 AM ET:

And while we are fighting and going broke "defending" Afghanistan, China is busy developing control over natural resources. We are being taken. Do we have such stupid people in State Dept. that allows this to go on? Yes!

As Trump said, when we negoatiate, we send "Diplomats", they send businessmen. Libeal, one-world diplomats, at that.

We are suckerd again. Part of our support for Iraq, Afghanistan, anypalce, should be repayment with favorable access to markets and development of resources. If not, then "good bye and good luck", not in 2024, but NOW.

Posted by JRP at August 22, 2011 9:00 AM ET:

Mistakenly we are focusing more and more on Afghanistan and the development of its infrastructure, election processes, yadda yadda yadda. Who gives a you know what. We have to re-focus on Al Qaeda and Zawahiri's capture or elimination. I just do not buy into the notion that only by bribing (foreign aid-same thing) various tribal leaders and Afghan Gov't Agencies can we get to AQ. Just as the U.S. cannot be the World's policeman, we can't be the World's largest charitable donor. All the charity in the World did not enable us to bring down Bin Laden. We got him through intelligence work and a very successful special ops mission. Let's not get mired in mission creep.

Posted by Nic at August 22, 2011 9:47 AM ET:

"His assessments of progress in those entities are lent credibility by his dour take on the Afghan Border Police, whom he describes as "just as bad as they were five years ago."
The many bad reviews of the ANA gives the impression that we are herding kittens. For an example of the complete opposite, read the book Lions of Kandahar by Bradley. The book centers on a counter attack during Operation Medusa. The ANA special forces performed superbly. On the down side, the Canadians attacked without doing proper scouting, the U. S. and Afghan Special Forces had to do a frontal assault without proper air support and do the assault in day light because the Afghans did not have night optics. The battle was nothing like the recuiting videos seen on TV. Lions of Kandahar would make a Hell-of-a movie. Too bad John Wayne is no longer available.

Posted by madashell59 at August 22, 2011 11:35 AM ET:

Charu: Following the money results in many paths. Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan. But mostly Iran. The other money is just going into the corrupt government pockets.

Al: Maybe the US administration are idiots but I am hoping the experienced long term Military and Intelligence agencies are more aware of whats going on and what could actually be the enemies actual end game plan. And although the current administration does not want to hear it some one is keeping an eye on it and assessing it at all times.

We can only hope.

Posted by Mr T at August 22, 2011 2:13 PM ET:

How about we take all the money we give to Pakistan and give that money to Afghanistan instead?

He said he needs weapons and fuel. We all know some % of our money to Pakistan goes to support the insurgency. We would be cutting off funding for the insurgency and giving it to the Afghans to provide security.

Pakistan would find itself on the outs for all their double dealing.

Double the bang for the buck.

Posted by Observer at August 22, 2011 3:24 PM ET:

If the ISI and not its renegades, is really financing and training the Taliban and AQ, ask yourselves why the Western Intelligence has not gathered the evidence in a sting operation?

For every dollar that the 'ISI' spends on this war, how much more does the West spend? Its a waste for the life of a Westerner to be felled by a locally manufactured bullet from a makeshift Pakistani workshop. The focus should be on Homeland Security, preventing another 9/11. Even if they succeed at striking New York with jets again, with the benefit of hind sight, it should be a manhunt type conflict not a major war. A global presence and strike capability would prevent the AQ from taking over Afghanistan via advice and targeted operations.

Currently if the USA does not locate about the top 20 members of AQ in Iraq within a time span of about a week for the interdiction, all its good works shall go to waste.

Posted by Zeissa at August 22, 2011 4:26 PM ET:

If Aghanistan was a protectorate you'd have some ability to influence promotion in their military.

Posted by Chris at August 22, 2011 7:31 PM ET:

"@Chris -
1. define "withdrawal." The US will undoubtedly maintain presence in Afghanistan for years beyond the stated timeframe. But the surge period is the highest US forces will ever be under current policy, and troops will be making staged exits in relevant numbers. This will impact ISAF development of the ANSF, as well as ability to maintain pressure on the insurgency."

I apologize,I thought for a second that you were drinking the kool-aid about the "pullout" of "all troops" our worthless western media has been telling us all about.

"2. A basic interview technique includes questions that solicit opinions affirming or rejecting the stated policy pronouncements of elected officials."

If you're referencing the "policy pronouncements" about how international forces are going to leave Afghanistan hook line and sinker come 2014,then no I did not understand why you asked an AFGHAN officer about the withdrawal for his valuable opinion,then simply make it seem as if his opinion wasn't in tune with reality as you wrote
"two things seemed especially notable about his answers: Nasrat's disbelief that the US will really withdraw by 2014......."
Now if this just has to do with the stickiness of the language then I accept that you weren't really insinuating that a full "withdrawal" would actually occur in 2014(as your response to my comment would indicate),but if otherwise then my question remains.
Regards to you as well.

Posted by Soccer at August 22, 2011 7:58 PM ET:

Observer,

Please expand your point about Iraq.

Just to put it out there, I agree that Iraq was a financial disaster and that Afghanistan is quickly turning into one. At the beginning of the Afghan war, we CRUSHED the opfor with 2,000 special forces, Northern Alliance militias and massive air power. The Taliban controlled 100 percent of the country before the war. Now, they do not even control nearly as much as they did when they ruled, we have hundreds of thousands of personnel with combat equipment AND massive air power, and yet we can't seem to be able to turn the tide in the whole country like we did at the start of the war.

Something is going wrong here, and it has to do with two things: Our conventional approach to the war, and safe havens in Pakistan. Afghanistan cannot be won using a conventional army, especially when that conventional army has to deal with hordes and legions of hardcore fighters swarming across the porous and rugged border every day.

Posted by Zeissa at August 22, 2011 8:49 PM ET:

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htterr/articles/20110816.aspx

Here u go Villiger, in case u're not reading the former article where u asked.

Do note the part about protecting M.E. Christians isn't true though, the Crusades were a response to a Byzantine call (but that's just Anatolia) and mostly protecting pilgrimage lines.

Posted by Neonmeat at August 23, 2011 4:44 AM ET:

At the end of the day the Pakistanis want a weak Afghan state that they can control through their proxy force, the Taliban, allowing them to focus on their main concern (for no apparent reason beyond blind hatred and jealousy it would seem to me) of India.

ISAF however want a stable country that self governs can control its extremist elements through strong policital voices and with an effective military and police force. One that can also keep AQ out of Afghan too.

Who's goals are the closest to being achieved?

To me it seems a balance, I totally refute the idea that ISAF is losing the Afghan War, the Taliban are reduced to a bombing and assassination campaign against local Tribal Leaders and Policitians and have no hope of ever defeating ISAF militarily. The pervasive ISI support and enable this in the hope of weakening the Afghan political capability in the belief (rightly or wrongly) that they are supporting their National interests.

We have to hope that the Afghan people can be strong enough to stand up in the face of this indiscrimate murder by the Taliban and forge a new Afghani state under our protection and then under the protection of their own forces.

It seems to me that Iran is also playing the same game as the Pakistanis though and this is also not being addressed.

Posted by Observer at August 23, 2011 4:56 AM ET:

If the USA Intelligence Community can kill or capture all the top 20 AQ cell in Iraq within a week, it cannot regenerate itself. It cannot survive as its knowledge base will be gone. If they do not AQ can have a fresh shot at sparking off a civil war on sectarian basis.

Posted by villiger at August 24, 2011 10:02 PM ET:

Thank you Zeissa. Good for perspective for someone like me uneducated in history!

Posted by stand4canada at August 24, 2011 11:24 PM ET:

In any military there will always be stories of faults and failures. The story here on the ground in Afghanistan is one of increasing success. As the trainers and mentors step back, young Afghans are stepping up and standing in the gap. Ne...w recruits coming in to the ANSF speak of patriotism, love of Afghanistan and a strong desire for a secure and stable life for them and their families.

Since the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan was stood up over 21 months ago, we can say that developing the Afghan forces is well on track. There are 33 countries, under NATO command, which are dedicated and committed to ensuring that Afghanistan’s security institutions (Army, Air Force, and Police) are self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and enduring.

The October 2011 goal for the Afghan National Army is 171,600, and for the Afghan National Police is 134,000. On an average there are 23,000 ANA soldiers in training per day, with 7,000 - 8,000 recruited per month. All 12 branch schools here are open. The ANP model of Recruit-Train-Assign is now in use and is mandatory for all recruits, who are trained from 6-8 weeks.
As of August 2011 their numbers are a proud 135,000. Quantity is important but quality is imperative. There are 2,100 Afghan trainers leading training and growing to 5K in the next 12 months. ANSF are trained at 70 sites in 21 provinces.
Investment in human capital is key to the ANSF becoming an effective, professional, and enduring force.
Human capital is one of their greatest assets. The real story is in how many stand. I agree with LTC Nasrat when he says, “Their strength is pride and ego. They don't back down when they have a duty to do, they will stand and fight, even if they have nothing to fight with.”See more

Posted by Paul D at September 2, 2011 12:06 PM ET:

Since OBL has been killed Pakistan has turned to China.Surely that shows they are no ally to the West.They harbour our enemies so they can collect cqs from the West.Yemen look to be doing the same!

Posted by Billy Bones at September 9, 2011 1:29 PM ET:

Bill,
Suzanne Malveaux of CNN is currently in Kabul reporting on Afghanistan. She should have just saved the money for the ticket and visited the Pentagon for an equally diluted story.
You are reporting from where the rubber meets and the road and we thank you for your excellent embed features.