NIGHTWATCH: Afghanistan – the Numbers Known and Unknown


Afghanistan: Comment: NightWatch has completed one of its occasional reviews of the level of violence in Afghanistan. Reportig from Afghan government sources since March 2013 shows that the major policy initiatives and resource commitments by of the Allied countries have made little lasting impact on the overall progression of the conflict.What is worse is that the withdrawal of well-equipped forces has created a false-positive echo that suggests security is improving because there are fewer non-Afghan casualties. Afghan reports indicate the fight got worse in September.

A table of monthly security incidents follows.

Month            Number of incidents

Mar                     167

Apr                    1145

May                   1363

June                   1317

July                    1466

Aug                    1205

Sep to 26 Sep     1724

The numbers show a normal pattern of fighting for a combat season that began in April. The normality of the numbers after 12 years of modern Western warfare is significant. The Taliban have absorbed the best efforts that modern Allied countries could afford to deliver and still surged in September 2013.

The areas of fighting are significant. Most security incidents and attacks of all kinds occur in the 12 or 13 Pashtun heartland provinces of eastern, southeastern and southern Afghanistan. The Taliban have never been an insurgency. They have always been the fighting force of a Pashtun tribal rebellion. The long term pattern of the fighting shows that.

The Tajik and Uzbek tribes in the north and the Hazara tribe in the central highlands have provided little to no support to the Taliban. However, as modern Western forces have retrenched to limit casualties during their withdrawal, the Taliban have made deals with local authorities and made gains.

The strength of the Taliban effort after more than a decade is a testament to the durability of the Pashtun uprising. Personal experiences and anecdotes notwithstanding, the numbers show Pashtuns support the Taliban against the outside-backed government in Kabul.

The most significant development in the past two months is the expansion of Taliban groups in Konduz Province and in Badakhshan Province, in northeastern Afghanistan. What is significant is that the Pashtun population in these provinces is small, especially in Badakhshan which is predominantly Tajik. Nevertheless the level of violent attacks has risen through the summer as Allied forces reduced their operations.  Allied efforts to protect these normally quiet provinces have failed after ten years of effort.

What also is curious is that US, other NATO, Australian and New Zealand and other allied forces are leaving Afghanistan without ever having known how many enemy forces they faced for 12 years. Thus, they are unable to explain a surge in fighting incidents in September 2013.

Phi Beta Iota:  The US Government has never understood Afghanistan.  As Milt Bearden commented recently to a select group, citing one of his high level contacts in the opposition, the US Government's tendency is to pre-define who they are fighting, and then to fight the definition rather than reality.  Viet-Nam deja vu.  We are reminded of Sam Adam's comment in light of General Westmoreland's persistent censorship of intelligence with integrity: “Here we are fighting a guerrilla war, and we are not allowed to county the guerillas.”  That comment tallies perfectly with Sherman Kent's quoted question when he was contemplating the enormity of CIA's complicty with a totally false US strategy and policy for Viet-Nam: “Have we exceeded the bounds of reasonable dishonesty?”  It is the policy of Earth Intelligence Network that intelligence is about decision-support (output) rather than inputs, and that intelligence without integrity is not intelligence.  ETHICS is the foundation for intelligence, followed by education, the fifteen slices of HUMINT, and intelligence-driven research.  Everything else is over-priced technical flim flam, a few stellar tactical capabilities notwithstanding.

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