Here are my quick notes on (the head of U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan) Major General Michael Flynn's presentation, titled State of the Insurgency : Trends, Intentions and Objectives (I got to it via the Danger Room). I will go backward through the slides.
- If you look at the last slide, you could be forgiven for thinking that the aim of the U.S. COIN campaign in Afghanistan is to beat the IED threat. In fact this is not the case, as the last three slides were shown to the audience, on the occasion, after a Q/A session, which came at the end of the general assessment of the insurgency by Flynn.
- Since most casualties are the result of IEDs, however, and since IEDs require Ammonium Nitrate (AN), diesel fuel, aluminium powder, sugar and fuel oil which are the lethal ingredients counter-IED efforts need to find the antidose for, a ban on the selling of AN is proposed on Slide 10 as a crucial ingredient of military success. It is concluded that since AN "accounts for only five percent of legitimate fertiliser use," and yet is used 85% of the time in homemade IEDs, the ban would be necessary and it would have minimal effect on agriculture. My observation: one could also presume that illegitimate AN use would not be particularly severely affected, either.
- Slide 9: 2005 was not so clearly the year of change in terms of IEDs used as it was for suicide bombings. Numbers grow steadily from 2004. The year 2007 seems to be an interesting break in the pattern, as indicated, as that was when an observable switch took place from the predominant use of military ordnance to the use of largely AN- or fertiliser-based bombs.
- On Slide 5 the point is made that "GIRoA weakness enables insurgent strength." I really want to see the more consistent use of an alternative: "International Community/GIRoA weakness enables insurgent strength." Would it not be more simple?
- Slide 3 shows, among other things, the area where the IMU is said to operate. It is interesting to see them shown in Uruzgan and Zabul. They seem to be organised on top of existing Taliban infrastructure mostly, but they are shown as operating on their own in what seems to be Faryab province. I am not sure what to make of this, as map-colouring could be, well, just map-colouring in the end, as opposed to empirical reality. I am not sure what to make of indication that Hizb-i-Islami's Khalis faction is said to operate in the east in some parts (the yellow patch on the map).
Anyway, I am including said map below.