Posted by Brad @ 12:05 am on September 3rd 2012

U.S. Suspends Training of Afghan Local Police, Because They Keep Shooting Us

They are going to instead undergo an intensive vetting procedures, including re-vetting existing officers.

A few quick and dirty thoughts:

1. This is pretty central to our whole exit strategy thing, such as it is.

2. It is entirely unclear to me that vetting will do much. I don’t claim to know all the details, but it is not my understanding that most of the ALP guys who have turned their guns back on their trainers have some kind of traceable ties to extremist groups – or rather, have any more traceable ties to extremist groups than just about anybody else in Afghanistan. That’s part of what’s been so alarming about the “green on blue” attacks – by and large, these haven’t been double-secret Al Queda operatives or trained Taliban double agents. Mostly, they’ve been exactly what vetting has found of them – unaffiliated young Afghans who just decide, one day, “fuck these guys”.

3. Finally, I’m not sure I can quite articulate it, and it may be a bridge too far besides, but my gut reaction to this whole phenomenon is that, in a way, we’re seeing the convergence of a lot of different things – the concepts of blowback, the deification of the U.S. military, obviously the whole notion of nation-building, and more.

More specifically, my admittedly nebulous thinking on it is this. We have collectively decided in American exceptionalism, and as applied to our endeavors abroad the notion that we have the right and even duty to nation-build, because we have these concepts and foundations that are what’s best for humankind, and it’s thus incumbent on us to disseminate them and to free the peoples of the world from their oppression/ignorance. We have, likewise, decided – obviously very reasonably, that the highest priority is to protect the lives of U.S. service members, which means finding more means, both technological and systemic, of getting them out of the line of fire. This entails intelligence/detention – actively “vetting” populations in which we’ll be operating in the form of collecting information in a variety of ways, from building relationships with locals to paying people to rat out their neighbors to just straight up profiling, and then acting on that information, which has a huge variability in terms of reliability, in such a way as to minimize the threats against us – such as taking suspected terrorists, however and by whom that is defined, off the battlefield by knocking on doors, rounding up suspects, and dropping them into our detention system, where they are then, in various ways, leaned on for information to help further collect intelligence on who out there may want to kill us. It also entails technology – if we have a tip that somebody we’ve identified as a threat is at Location X, there is no longer a need to send a small team in and risk casualty – we can just drone bomb that shit. Of course, that’s less than clinically precise, or with the capacity for on-the-ground flexibility or information gathering, so we wind up often acting on bad intelligence and murdering innocents (or at the very least people perceived as innocent by locals/family/non-American-news consumers). Or we wind up acting on good intelligence but not only get the militant but also the people around him – his six year old son, a wedding party, whatever.

We do both of those things for a very noble reason – to protect the lives of American soldiers and minimize their exposure to the battlefield.

And then those soldiers get shot off the battlefield by the people they’ve been sent there to help, who were not necessarily but now are radicalized by the perceptions created by our practices and technology. Thus, and again this may be a bridge too far, but the very things we develop to try to protect the lives of our soldiers in symmetrical warfare winds up increasing their exposure to the asymmetrical variety, which also increases the exposure of the rest of us (you are more likely to die by a militarized terrorist than at the hands of a member of a hostile army or organized battlefield enemy (it seems very unlikely the Taliban will invade)).

That’s not too radical a thought, I don’t think – it is the very definition of blowback – but I think there’s a very clear application, and while this may seem a bunch of isolated events I think it’s actually a fairly direct line. As I said, that’s what’s been rattling around in my brain anyway in relation to this story.


  1. Other update!

    A U.S. drone strike targeting al Qaeda suspects in Yemen killed 13 civilians, including three women, three security officials in the restive Middle Eastern country said.

    “This was one of the very few times when our target was completely missed. It was a mistake, but we hope it will not hurt our anti-terror efforts in the region,” a senior Yemeni Defense Ministry official told CNN.

    Nice parsing there. Because “partial missed” happens quite often, as does “completely hit…likely innocent target”.

    Read the rest of the article for local reaction. Reax: Why do they hate us for our freedom?

    Comment by Brad — 9/4/2012 @ 4:52 pm

  2. I agree with this post.

    Comment by Jack — 9/5/2012 @ 9:32 pm

  3. Item 1:

    An Afghan soldier turned his weapon on a vehicle he believed was driven by NATO soldiers on a shared base in the south, slightly wounding a foreign civilian worker, officials said Monday. It was the latest in a string of insider attacks by Afghan forces against their international allies.[…]

    The Sunday evening attack in Helmand province came the same day an Afghan police officer shot and killed four American service members in Zabul, also in the south. That followed on a shooting Saturday in which a man wearing the uniform of a government-back militia group killed two British soldiers in Helmand.

    Item 2:

    At least eight women have died in a Nato air strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Laghman, local officials say.

    Nato has conceded that between five and eight civilians died as it targeted insurgents, and offered condolences. […]

    At least seven women were also reported to have been injured. Provincial health director Latif Qayumi said some of them injured were girls aged as young as 10.

    The Laghman governor’s office said a number of civilians had gone to the mountains to collect wood and nuts from a forest in the Noarlam Saib valley, a common practice in the area.

    Comment by Brad — 9/17/2012 @ 9:14 am

  4. And now they’re suspending many joint operations altogether.

    Most joint U.S.-Afghan military operations have been suspended following what authorities believe was an insider attack Sunday that left four American soldiers dead, officials told NBC News.

    “We’re to the point now where we can’t trust these people,” a senior military official said.

    Somehow, this is a win for Obama, who will have gotten us out of Afghanistan just like he did Iraq – by trying to stay and having the locals kick us out (but leaving as many hooks in as we possibly can).

    Comment by Brad — 9/18/2012 @ 2:20 pm

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