Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Fri

16

Apr

2010

Military and political efforts in Afghanistan flounder as no one is in charge - NATO Launches Operation Sar-dard سردرد
Friday, 16 April 2010 04:37
by Matthew Nasuti

In Pashto and Dari, “Sar-dard” ﺳﺭﺩﺭﺩ means “headache.” Because the West has no unified military/civilian command in Afghanistan, the resulting chaos has given this reporter a headache. As a result he has dubbed NATO’s operations: Sar-dard.

There is a popular American movie called “The Time Bandits.” In one scene, ten generals give conflicting orders to one lowly soldier. Unable to comply with all their orders, he ignores them and does what he wants. That is the situation today in Afghanistan. No one is in overall command of Western efforts.

The United Nations Assistance Mission - Afghanistan (UNAMA) is managed by the Special Representative of the Secretary General SRSG) for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura. He presides over an umbrella of various U.N. agencies. They operate independently of NATO.

The European Union is present in Afghanistan. Its efforts are directed by its Special Representative of the European Union for Afghanistan (EUSRA). Currently that position is being filled by Ambassador Ettore Francesco Sequi. He has his own programs and priorities.

The major donor countries constitute the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). Its steering committee is apparently managed by Nicholas Kraft, Afghanistan Country Director for the World Bank. It pursues its own programs and projects.
 

The Canadians have an Ambassador in Kabul and a ROCK (Representative of Canada in Kandahar). The former is William Crosbie and the latter Ben Rowswell.

The Americans have an Ambassador in Kabul and a Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The former is Karl Eikenberry and the latter is Richard Holbrooke. They have not embraced several key NATO projects, including a plan to arm local village militias. They also do not support the planned moves to improve security in Kandahar. The Embassy has decided not to join the military in Kandahar at the present time. It will instead be opening its first consulate in Mazar-e Sharif and its second in Herat.

Next we have NATO. It has rejected the concept of a unified management team. Political authority is vested in Ambassador Mark Sedwill, who is NATO’s Special Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. Military authority is vested in General Stanley McChrystal.

General Stanley McChrystal would appear to be the undisputed western military commander in Afghanistan, but upon closer examination, that would not be true. He has limited authority over the German and Italian troops who take their orders from Berlin and Rome. The former will not aggressively patrol and the latter reportedly had been paying the Taliban not to fight them. British forces continue to suffer due to substandard armored vehicles and inadequate helicopter support, but there is nothing General McChrystal can do about any of these problems. All key decisions are made by the Ministry of Defense in London.

While British, Australian and New Zealand special forces units have long been under NATO command, American special forces units have been operating independently of General McChrystal. They have been reporting to Special Operations Command in the United States. General McChrystal also has no authority over CIA paramilitary forces within Afghanistan.

Surprisingly, General McChrystal has only nominal control over the U.S. Marines stationed in Afghanistan. By this summer, 20,000 Marines will be in the country, but the Marines have strong political support in the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon and they have been successful in having a rule adopted which permits the Marines to operate independently of the U.S. Army. As a result, the Marines do not have to join U.S. Army efforts to secure Kandahar province and city. The Marines have reportedly been given authority to operate in Helmond and Nimruz provinces where they will fight their own private war.

One example which highlights the nonsensical Marine deployment is the fact that 3,000 Marines are scheduled to move into a forward operating base near the tiny village of Delaram, which is in western Afghanistan and sits on the boundary between Farah and Nimruz provinces. This planned deployment is detailed in an article entitled: “Marines Gone Rogue” which appeared in the Washington Post on March 14, 2010. The Marines will be protecting some sand dunes and apparently seeking to intercept Iranians smuggling pistachios into Afghanistan. There is little else to do in Delaram.

The Marine deployment to Nimruz simply cannot be defended. While this area was once part of ancient Seistan and its capital Zaranj was renowned as the breadbasket of Asia, the whole province was destroyed 1,000 years ago by the Mongols and then again by Timur-e Lang (Tamerlane) in 1383 A.D. Together they smashed the incredible network of windmills, dikes and canals that used to make the desert bloom. Today, Nimruz is a province consisting of 54,000 square kilometers of desert and some farmland. It is populated by only about 120,000 people, most of whom are Baloch. Many of the rest are descendants of the ancient Sakzai.

In an attempt to justify their remote desert strategy, the Marines have told reporters that Delaram is important to the war effort because the Taliban have an “underground highway” running from the Buji Bhast Mountains through the town. This statement is reminiscent of the Vietnam War where North Vietnamese troops were using Laos as an actual highway for supplies into South Vietnam. It was dubbed the Ho Chi Minh trail. Upon closer scrutiny, there is no “underground highway” in Delaram. Some local Taliban are simply hiding supplies in the various “karez” or “kariz,” which are ancient underground irrigation tunnels. In summary, while the Taliban are attacking population centers in Kabul, Kandahar, and Khost, the American Marines are protecting a few hundred farms in a remote region of desert that has no apparent strategic value.

The Marines have recently claimed that their massive assault on the small district town of Marjah in Helmond province was a success, despite the heavy losses they suffered. Such a claim is premature at this time. Even if Marjah does turns out to be an eventual success, there is an old Afghan proverb:

“One flower does not bring spring.”

A solution to these problems may be found by going back in history sixty years. In 1950, American President Harry S. Truman, with the approval of the United Nations’ Security Council, appointed General Douglas MacArthur as the Supreme Commander of all U.N. forces in Korea. His formal title was “Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Command.” That should be the model for Afghanistan. President Barack Obama should insist that NATO and the United Nations agree once again to a unified command. They should name General Stanley McChrystal as the Supreme Allied Commander for Afghanistan (SACA). General McChrystal needs to have authority over all foreign military, civilian, marine and special forces units in Afghanistan. He needs to be vested with authority to order NATO and American forces to undertake any operation and deploy to any location in Afghanistan as needed. He needs to have full control over the operations of the U.N., the EU, the dysfunctional U.S. Embassy and the embarrassing USAID staff.

The war in Afghanistan, at the present time, is not a success and too many metrics are moving in favor of the Taliban. The current military/civilian effort is fractured and it is unlikely to succeed within the narrow timeframe dictated by President Obama.

If President Obama truly wants to prevail in Afghanistan, he needs to support his commander in the field and provide him with the ability to order unified action. This reporter believes that there is still a chance to salvage this war. To quote another Afghan proverb:

“There is a path to the top of even the highest mountain.”

That path though is being steadily eroded and may soon disappear unless the West acts quickly to unify its efforts. Until then, it is simply a Sar-dard.

Matthew J. Nasuti writes for : www.kabulpress.org

More from this author:
America’s "Phantom Aid" to Afghanistan (5107 Hits)
by Matthew Nasuti Reuters reported on April 23, 2007 that Peter Bergen, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, had testified before the...
U.S. Embassy Gambles Away Afghanistan Aid Funds (7302 Hits)
by Matthew Nasuti The U.S. Embassy in Kabul usually wastes Afghan aid funds on a grand scale, but the Kabul Press has discovered that it is...
America’s happy war in Afghanistan - American government sugar-coating Afghan war news for sweet-toothed U.S. media (7196 Hits)
by Matthew Nasuti. America reigns supreme in Afghanistan in air power and in its own press releases. Western press offices are surging...
America’s happy war in Afghanistan - American government sugar-coating Afghan war news for sweet-toothed U.S. media (5626 Hits)
by Matthew Nasuti. America reigns supreme in Afghanistan in air power and in its own press releases. Western press offices are surging...
Building Junk Schools in Afghanistan (7467 Hits)
by Matthew Nasuti U.S. Military falsifies completion of Farukh Shah School. Every building in the school complex has serious structural...
Related Articles:
The Bush Magical Mystery Political Capital Tour (10190 Hits)
The Bush War Cabinet is invoking the memory of 9/11 as justification for their systematic shredding of constitutional and human...
U.S. Military Has Killed Up to 238,000 Iraqi Civilians (11588 Hits)
A just-released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in the current issue of the prestigious British medical journal The...
They Hate Our Freedom: The Truth about the Military Commissions Act (8543 Hits)
By Aaron Sussman On October 17th, with Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and Donald Rumsfeld standing behind him, George W. Bush solemnly ...
Rumsfeld’s long walk into Political Oblivion (6931 Hits)
by Mike Whitney Donald Rumsfeld never really understood the war he was fighting in Iraq. That’s why the results have been so terrible. He...
Afghanistan - Treading on the Toes of Iraq (5182 Hits)
by Ehsan Azari The two-day NATO’s heads of government summit in the Latvian capital, Riga, on November 28-29, has ended with incremental...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (7)add comment

Gary - New Rochelle said:

0
A Distorted and Factually Inaccurate Article
Perhaps you should use facts and figures rather than hyperbolic adjectives when you write what is supposed to be a "news" article. Aside from expressing your point of view, you conveyed little if any factual information -
 
April 17, 2010
Votes: +0

Commenter said:

0
Opinion?
Note the top banner. What does it say? Opinion. Oh yes, this is an opinion website. Not hard news. You want pablum, spoon fed mainstream news go to CNN.
 
April 17, 2010
Votes: +0

Matt Nasuti said:

0
From the Author
It is unfortunate that you boys are afraid to list your names.
I guess it is pretty scary to have to identify yourselves.
You also cannot read. This story is nothing but facts, with a
simple conclusion at the end that there is no one person in
charge of the war, and a recommendation that General McChrystal
be designated as that person. Do you actually object to that?
 
April 17, 2010
Votes: +0

Bob Lozano said:

0
Facts?
Mr. Nasuti-
rom your post:
1, As a result he (this reporter) has dubbed NATO’s operations: Sar-dard.
2. (the Marines) ... will fight their own private war
3. One example which highlights the nonsensical Marine deployment ...
4. The Marine deployment to Nimruz simply cannot be defended
5. The Marines will be protecting some sand dunes and apparently seeking to intercept Iranians smuggling pistachios into Afghanistan. There is little else to do in Delaram.
6. This reporter believes ...

... and so on and so forth.

The ratio of facts to opinion in this piece is very low ... yet you say "there is nothing but facts".

The arrogance in your presumption that your opinion is the same as a fact is comical, to say the least.

Bob Lozano


 
April 23, 2010
Votes: +0

Bob Lozano said:

0
one more time
Mr. Nasuti-
"This story is nothing but facts" is comically inaccurate. A few facts woven together with opinion after opinion ... the arrogance that enables you to mistake your own opinion for a fact is pretty funny, in a peculiar sort of way.

Bob Lozano
 
April 23, 2010
Votes: +0

Matt Nasuti said:

0
From the Author:
Dear Bob:
You still have not addressed the core of the article, which is that no one is in overall command. Take for example the front page of today's Washington Post. It reports that General McChrystal's plans to immediately supply electricity to Kandahar have been overruled by the U.S. Embassy, which instead supports a long-term plan to supply electricity at some later date. General McChrystal's commanders argue that they need to show improvements now to the residents of Kandahar in order to gather support for ISAF's COIN efforts, but the U.S. Embassy is not on the same page. This is the core of my article, that General McChrystal lacks the authority he should have. Whose side are you on Bob? It appears from your comments that you may be affiliated with the Marines, whom I criticized. Everyone seems to be going in different directions in Afghanistan, when they should be pulling together. No war was ever won with a committee in charge.
 
April 23, 2010
Votes: +0

Matt Nasuti said:

0
From the Author:
Dear Bob:
You still have not addressed the core of the article, which is that no one is in overall command. Take for example the front page of today's Washington Post. It reports that General McChrystal's plans to immediately supply electricity to Kandahar have been overruled by the U.S. Embassy, which instead supports a long-term plan to supply electricity at some later date. General McChrystal's commanders argue that they need to show improvements now to the residents of Kandahar in order to gather support for ISAF's COIN efforts, but the U.S. Embassy is not on the same page. This is the core of my article, that General McChrystal lacks the authority he should have. Whose side are you on Bob? It appears from your comments that you may be affiliated with the Marines, whom I criticized. Everyone seems to be going in different directions in Afghanistan, when they should be pulling together. No war was ever won with a committee in charge.
 
April 23, 2010
Votes: +0

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top