A very relevant link to those with an interest in what Poland is doing in Afghanistan, as a follow-up post to my previous one on Nir Rosen's "embedded" tour of Ghazni province with local Taliban. David Tate, a journalist and the author of the blog you can reach via the link, has some statistical data to cite, the kind of which I myself could use a lot.
"Poland’s primary mission will be controlling more than 180 miles of the Kabul-Kandahar Highway (the main artery serving a majority of Afghanistan’s population) and training Afghan security forces also deployed around the province.Fighting in Ghazni has increased 99% since 2007 when 113 incidents were reported. By October 2008, the number of attacks was already 221 on the year. Ghazni is the fifth most active province, in terms of fighting, in Afghanistan."
So the US built four bases that Polish troops will now take over, and the Kabul-Kandahar road will be among their primary responsibilities.
Of course, Polish troops are there in Ghazni since a while now, their presence will not be really a new fact on the ground. Illustration (a Polish Humvee and a Rozomak in Andar district, Ghazni province, some time earlier - the photo's source):
They are not going to be left on their own, however. And meanwhile, Task Force ODIN is on the way, to "observe, detect, identify and neutralize" threats all along the Kabul-Kandahar road's area, i.e. to ODIN those threats. This is what the Washington Post reported. The Task Force will rely on a lot of drones, and for this reason an expansion of Kandahar Airfield is currently taking place. This seems like the gadgetry surge that was confidentially promised to David Ignatius the other day.
I'm not doubting that the additional task force soldiers will do what they can, and that that will matter. I still find it boring to a degree that whenever I report on some "changed" approach in Afghanistan, it has usually to do primarily with military tactics and strategy. Meanwhile, there's no big re-thinking of how, and given what kind/volume of resources, development aid could work or better work. Or, of how the Afghan economy could be boosted in a really "pro-poor" way, as it is fashionable to say. Better practices and more results in that field couldn't ODIN threats in insurgency-struck areas. But it could go a long way to prevent new areas from being sustainably (from the guerrillas' point of view) infiltrated, and contribute to long-term stabilisation a lot more.
Update: USA Today says some more relevant things about the gadgetry surge, drones and the expansion of airfields in Afghanistan.
"The Pentagon is building a series of air bases in eastern Afghanistan as part of its massive expansion of a system that uses drone aircraft to spy on and attack Taliban insurgents.(...)Much of the budget for intelligence collection is secret, but some figures are not classified. Last year, the Pentagon received authority from Congress to shift $1.3 billion in its budget to pay for more drones and the systems needed to fly them. It will shift at least $750 million this year.(...)The use of drones, which supply 95% of the full-motion video images commanders use to watch insurgent activity, has skyrocketed in recent years. As recently as 2005, drones flew 100,000 hours, most of it in support of troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, the number of hours in flight increased to nearly 400,000.
Since last year, the military has added more than 600 unmanned aircraft, ranging from small hand-launched spy planes to missile- and bomb-carrying Reapers. The military has about 6,000 such aircraft, up from 167 drones at the beginning of the war in 2001."