Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Mind that Muzzle Maliq!

The spate of 'green on blue' or, as they've recently been renamed, ' insider' killings of US (particularly) and other ISAF personnel, are causing no small perturbations in the wind-down of the latest Afghan War. In fact they've upset the total 'training' applecart on which the future war is propounded. For, not being able to 'trust' the trainees' to not shoot them, makes westerners leery about training them, or arming them at all. In fact, until a 'solution' - in the form of 're-vetting' every member of the Afghan armed forces and police is under way the training is stuck on 'marching' and 'saluting' the nice soldier effendi..

And what does 're-vetting' entail? Well when the standard western soldier-citizen presents himself at the recruitment office, he's asked to sign a declaration that he has no criminal record he's not divulging and later that he's not affiliated with any groups 'disloyal' to the nation - viz the military. Sometimes he has to produce references to his good/character/patriotism/ martial ardor etc  - ofttimes from a friend or relative who has served in the military,a friendly school teacher, administrator, boss or boy scout leader. In ultimo he swears a public oath of allegiance and commits him/herself in writing to the 'military code of justis' which governs his/her life in uniform.

Most Afghans can't read, or write - the material presenting themselves for paid work as soldiers, or police, aren't the sort who would go to high school, even if they could. The vetting is often done by a village chief - if it's done at all - or by a relative with some local clout. Local soldiers or police are usually from somewhere else and have no affiliation, unless the subject has been a 'tea wallah' or after hours 'entertainer' - neither occupation scoring high on NATO's 'warrior ethos' chart.

Apparently, it has been decided that 'improper vetting of Afghan 'good guys' has resulted in some of them either  'going rogue'  or 'being rogues in pals clothing' and blasting their 'from away' buddies - generally when they're off guard, not looking, returning to base or just generally without pants. And this is 'dastardly' because, first, it tends to be quite mortal up-close and, second, it's not 'manly' like standing out in the street to be gunned down by an Apache crew, or a Marine sniper. And, thirdly, most of the time the 'shooter', somehow, manages to escape to join the Taliban, so it's un-traditionally un-suicidal  - which was bad enough - virgin-wise. So now the 'vettor' is gong to be 'held personally responsible' for the 'vettee'.  Whether the Americans are prepared to take this to Germanic extreme, eg holding a number of hostages to be shot if a soldier is harmed, or whether an incident will result in a 'fine', or removal of  poppy-growing licenses, Ding-Dong ration, etc, remains to be seem. If the Germanic experience is anything to compare, however, it may have been locally successful at times, but it resulted in a lot of, perhaps unnecessary, follow-on German deaths and a good number of war crimes trials for the survivors.

In taking this tack, the US, in particular, is ignoring a sociological study done for the Army last year which came to the conclusion that neither the Afghan forces, or the US forces liked or respected each other. Each thought of the other in consistently negative and derogatory terms. Trust, or lack thereof, was a fundamental issue a year ago before the shootings 'ballooned'. The other ISAF participants, suffering similar attacks are simply expediting the 'removal' of their targets by shortening-up their future commitments in Afghanistan.

This is the essential 'nub' of the problem. The US is planning to 'Afghanize' the war - which will continue to be fought under the direction of a number of US troops left behind for that purpose. The US will provide the money, targets, the training and equipment and the Afghans are to go out and kill their cousins. Something they've been very reluctant, in most cases,  in helping the Americans to do so far. Some ISAF allies have foolishly agreed to continue to 'rent out' forces for that purpose, but those who have been paying their own way are seeing the mission as 'impossible' as it is. Even warfighters like the ANZACs who revere the fallen and honour the warrior are making tracks for the antipodes. The lesser lights of NATO:  the French, Spanish, Dutch and Canadians are gone and the Germans, Italians and Brits are on their way. Which leaves only the 'greatest force for good on erth' to 'bear the white man's burden' and  continue 'civilize he brown man' with a JDam strike and an M14 on full auto.

Or, to cut the losses and declare another phony 'victory', (stabbed in the back by lily-livered pols who refused to 'undo the laces on the sparring gloves' and broaden the terms of engagement beyond the star wars category it has already reached). Given the performance so far, what should NEVER happen us that the US start fighting the Taliban, like Taliban - for green-on-blue would then take on the aspect of  the 'schoolyard disagreement' with  a 'few malcontent's it's being cracked up to be.

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