Why is Kunar being ignored in the Afghan handover?

Yesterday The Associated Press reported that the Afghan government will announce that its security forces will take over control of six areas: Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province, Kabul province (with the exception of Surobi), and Herat, Bamiyan, and Panshir provinces:

Afghan forces will soon replace NATO-led troops in charge of security at six sites across Afghanistan — the first step in a transition that Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes will leave his troops in control across the nation by the end of 2014, The Associated Press has learned.

The provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in volatile southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west and Mazar-i-Sharif in the north are slated for the first phase of transition from NATO-led forces to Afghan soldiers and police, a Western official told AP on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Karzai plans to formally announce the sites March 21.

All of Bamiyan and Panshir provinces, which have seen little to no fighting, are on the transition list, which many Western diplomats and military officials have. Also slated for transition is Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district, the official said. Afghan security forces earlier took charge of security in the capital, Kabul.

Except for Lashkar Gah, the list excludes nearly all of southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the fiercest fighting is under way.

Oddly enough, there is no mention of the security turnover that is currently underway in the district of Pech in Kunar province. On Feb. 25, Major General Campell, the top officer in Regional Command-East, first announced his forces were pulling back from combat outposts in Pech and handing over security to Afghan troops, and ISAF issued an official press release on the last day of the month. Just yesterday, ISAF issued a press release announcing it turned over Forward Operating Base Blessing to Afghan troops.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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11 Comments

  • CJR says:

    I think the answer is:
    In the announced areas, they are planning on the ANSF being successfully in controlling the area . They are “clear hold build” areas.
    In Kunar, they don

  • Lisa says:

    Bill and CJ–
    Dumb question, but why would’t Kunar be considered a high priority area–isn’t it a major transit from NWFP?
    Thanks–Lisa

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Exactly.
    And it wasn’t a dumb question.

  • cjr says:

    Lisa:
    The official answer would be (I take no position on whether it is a good answer or a bad answer):
    “The current strategy is a population-centric one. The first priorty is to protect the population. Other things, like controling transit points, are a secondary priority. (note: ISAF has limited resourses. It cant do everything. There is no escaping the fact that priroties have to set and thererfore some things are just not going to get done.)
    Kunar has a small population. And the terrain makes it difficult to control even the small population. Therefore, in a population centric strategy, Kunar province is a low priority. ”

  • Lisa says:

    Bill and CJ

  • anan says:

    Lisa, there are multiple other answers to your question:
    1) ISAF and 2nd Brigade. 201st ANA Corps are getting their butts kicked in Kunar. The Taliban in Kunar fight better and are more international than the Taliban in the south. Plus the density of ANSF in Kunar is far lower than the density of ANSF in some other parts of Afghanistan.
    Transition is a mixed blessing. Now central Helmand Valley will tie down Sherin Shah’s elite 3-215, which won’t be available for operations in hotspots.

  • CJR says:

    A little perpective:
    Pech (the district in Kunar effected) is 0.15% of Afghanistan’s population.
    One battalion, about 1.5% of ISAFs total force, is being pulled back.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @anan: I don’t know what you consider ISAF getting “their butts kicked in Kunar” but my quick review indicates the 101st Air Assault division has suffered 4 KIA in that province since January 1.
    //www.defense.gov/releases/archive.aspx

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Here’s a recent (1/5/11) briefing with the commander of Task Force Bastogne whose AO includes Kunar Province:

    Colonel Poppas Briefing

  • JC says:

    The notion that the insurgents in Kunar fight better than those in Helmand is laughable. Kunar has seen nothing like the more advanced IED tactics being used in Helmand. In Kunar its all DF with the occasional “shock and awe” base attack like at Wanat and Keating. Given the terrain and the competence or lack thereof of ISAF and ANSF in Kunar, DF alone is able to hold them off without hardly even using IEDs. Having spent time in both provinces, I will tell you the difference is not in the insurgents, but in the US forces fighting those respective places.
    The Pech pullout for “economy of force” or whatever reason you want to give is just an excuse for failure. The forces we had there simply could not do the job. Also, the idea that the 101st AB only took 4 KIA since Jan being indicative of success is misplaced. Avoiding casualties by not patrolling aggresively is not success and only leads to the end we’re seeing, i.e., we lose, then win.

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