What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thoughts on the impact of the Aussie boost in Uruzgan

MStFB news commentary
As I'm watching the debate about the Dutch approach unfold in the blogosphere as well as in the traditional media, I'm beginning to wonder if this whole thing may be detrimental to the whole of the ISAF effort in Uruzgan, where the Dutch and the Australians will have to cooperate efficiently in the very complex environment they are operating in: in the midst of a delicate web of clans, militias, opium-runners, woven together by overlapping loyalties. Maximum coordination of effort and intel-sharing will be needed.
I see the 'Uruzgan weblog' quoting an article from The Australian other than the one I (and they) cited the previous day. In that article you can read that 'one highly experienced Australian soldier' observed that 'Every time they /the Dutch/ have a contact they run away'. On the other hand, in reaction to this, you can read comments on the same site, such as: 'Funniest report ever, no disrespect meant but the Australians rarely get outside of the green zones. They don't patrol or come in the areas where Dutch troops get in contact with Taliban regularly. My cousin just returned from Afghanistan so I know what I'm talking about. Just because they send some SF for a couple of tours (which a lot of countries have done) doesn't justify this holier than thou attitude'.
Well, these quarrels could arguably get worse. I do think the appearance of more Aussie special ops in Uruzgan can be beneficial. With more, supposedly well-coordinated, harassment of insurgents (by e.g. clandestine patrols), it has been my take so far that the mix of the Dutch/Australian approach can turn out to be reminiscent of the real ink spot concept. Well, not necessarily, if they start bashing each other.
The Uruzgan blog's webmaster is right in noting the following, about why Chora Valley remains outside of ISAF's control currently.
'The operation to clear the Chora Valley (also known as the Baluchi Valley) was conducted in close cooperation with the Dutch "Special Forces Task Group 'Viper'". The problem afterwards was that the Afghan/Australian/US/Dutch forces lacked the manpower to establish a permanent presence in the area in order to consolidate the successfully reached objectives. The same goes for many other areas of Uruzgan province, including those where US Special Operation Forces and the 82nd Airborne division are active: FOB's Cobra and Anaconda; Firebase Tycz). Frankly speaking, this webmaster doubts whether an added 300 Australian Special Forces would make a significant difference. What would be needed is a REALLY large joint & combined force, let's say at least two or three brigades, in order to have a permanent presence and thereby gain the confidence of the local population, especially in the more remote areas. At present, they may encounter a US, Dutch or ANA patrol once in a while. Much more frequenly, they're paid a visit by the Taliban (or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's or drug warlords forces, also active in the province) and made a simple proposal: support us, or the 'Christian invaders' and face the consequences. For your average Afghan farmer, the options are simple.'
A boost of presence by the Australians is definitely a change in the landscape. (The total number of ADF troops deployed will reach 950 by mid-2007, from the current 400, and will peak at a thousand later on, according to this Australian government site.) But that boost is not yet a decisive move against the insurgency in Uruzgan, and certainly not a panacea to all the province's problems. Public opinion-wise the Australian leadership is not free of restrictions, either. They aren't providing own combat air power with the extra boots, as yet, so they will have to rely on others. As to Dutch Apaches operating in Uruzgan, their RoE is restrictive. In March, Radio Netherlands quoted a Dutch Apache pilot saying 'There has to be real enemy action targeting our ground troops - they have to be under fire - directly or indirectly - only then will we possibly deploy our weapons'. One wonders how useful that is for support in aggressive special operations, and one wonders why the Australians didn't wonder that much if they are sending their soldiers in to do real business, as they say. So The Australian's take is passing the buck a little. And 'senior Australian military sources' (quoted by The Australian), saying that they are going to start from scratch in Uruzgan now, are exaggerating.
This shouldn't be played this way. By suggesting to public opinion back home that your soldiers will be in harm's way because of an ally, you'll probably increase public opinion pressure for calling them home. So one should be a bit more careful about such statements.

No comments: