Taliban Ambush Kills 30 on Road Crew in Helmand;
60% of Americans Oppose Afghan War

Word is trickling out now about a Taliban attack on workers and security guards that killed some 30 persons and wounded 15 others, while yet others were taken captive. The victims had been working on a road in Sangin, Helmand Province. Roads allow easier government penetration of provincial areas, and this consideration may have led to the Taliban attack. As guerrillas fighting an unconventional war, they do not want for it to be easier for the Kabul government to send in armored vehicles on paved roads.

The BBC says that the Durai Sangin security company asserted that its guards had at length fought the Taliban off before international assistance could arrive. The workers were building a road between Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, and Sangin to its northeast.

It is not clear to me if this security company will come under the ban on such firms that has been decreed to begin on the first of January by President Hamid Karzai. There are some 24 security companies employing 26,000 security guards in Afghanistan, with about half of the guards being Afghan. These firms are widely felt to have infringed on Afghan sovereignty, to have acted high-handedly, and even to have been responsible for deaths of Afghan civilians. Karzai says that the Afghanistan police and army can take up the slack, but seasoned observers entertain the gravest doubts that they can actually do so. The Daily Times (Pakistan) writes, “General Abdul Hadi Khaled said the Afghan police force would not be ready to take on the security firms’ responsibilities for two or three years.”

Among the security firms that gave them all a bad name was Blackwater (now Xe), which has just had a huge $42 million fine levied against it, in part for illegally smuggling weapons into Afghanistan. The company’s founder, Eric Prince, is under several legal clouds, and has abruptly relocated to Dubai.

Security problems are also roiling plans to hold parliamentary elections in Afghanistan this fall, with the electoral commission unable to open voting stations in much of the Pashtun east and south of the country for fear of Taliban attacks. As the Irish Times puts it, fraud and corruption are expected to plague the elections,, not to mention that candidates are being threatened with violence. It should be remembered that political parties are still banned in Afghanistan, so that the elections are waged on a personalistic basis, and the situation is far from ideal.

The string of bad news comes as the results of a poll are released showing that nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan War.. This number is up from past polls, pointing to the war’s increasing unpopularity.

9 Responses

  1. .
    NYT opinion piece explains the necessary evil of Mercenaries: link to nytimes.com

    Here’s my take:
    If we need Mercenaries in order to maintain the current Operational Tempo, then we’re trying to do too much.
    If an NGO, or a government agency, thinks they’re helping the local population, but that local population cannot be bothered to protect those outsiders who are bringing upheaval in the name of progress, then the outsiders have failed to do the necessary preparatory work. First convince the locals that they will benefit, and they will welcome and protect you.
    .

  2. I am not understanding why the Afghan government finds it virtually impossible to recruit and train security personnel who can take on security missions comparable to private contractors. This, in spite of the fact that the US is pounding vast amounts of resources into the effort. What explains that the Afghan government just cannot do what private security contractors can do and what the Taliban can do? What is the explanation?

    • You ask the question why?. The answer is both simple and complex.

      The simple answer is attitude. Both the ISAF and the Private Security Companies (PSM), both locally or foreign owned, have an interest in keeping their workers alive. There they fight with appropriate weapons, wearing body armour, and from effective defensive positions. And the officers treat their employees well and pay them more than the going wage, which they consider only just compensation for putting your life at risk.

      The Karzai government (the most corrupt government in the world), on the other hand, pays the ANP and ANA troops practically nothing, puts no value on protecting their lives, and provides them with officers who treat the troops with undisguised arrogance and disdain, steal money from them and, in general, abuse the hell out of them. And then, being ignorant of battle tactics themselves because they are corrupt political appointees, lead (from behind) their troops into slaughter. No wonder that the first thing the new ANA recruit does is to sell his government-issued gun to the Taliban and head for the hills. In spite of what seems to be the attraction of a quick trip to paradise for the Haqqani suicide bomber, most Afghans would like to live out their natural lives in peace.

      The Taliban offers a religious ideology — its troops are motivated to fight. The private security companies offer enough of a wage and good treatment to make it worth while to bet your life on a fight with the Taliban. Only a damn fool would give up his life for the Karzai government — is there anyone who would fight for the right to have your leaders steal from you?.

      The complicated answer, which has to do with tribalism and ancient feuds, is too long to cite here.

  3. As Vietnam ought to have taught anyone above the intelligence above that of a planaria worm: you cannot restart support for a quagmire war/occupation already written off by the citizenry years before. And these Taliban folks in their squadrons of Toyota land cruisers don’t seem — in the least — about to stop growing in numbers, organization, and audacity. This will only get worse and more humiliating for the United States and its lacky “coalition” the longer America remains where it has no business or genuine interests — meaning Afghanistan. As I wrote in my poem, “Neck Deep in the Big Sandy”:

    “We stay because of violence
    That we cannot prevent.
    We stay, inflicting violence,
    To mask our true intent.
    We stay so that the perpetrators
    Never must repent.
    We stay for any rationale
    A baboon could invent.”

    But in only a couple more Friedman/Mullen Units, as General Petraeus keeps saying, the tipping point will begin to turn the corner and connect the dots on the ink-stained, flypaper dominoes in the tunnel at the end of the light. Manufactured Mendacity and Managed Mystification, I say. Our political/military “leaders” lie just to keep in practice, just so they won’t forget how. Anyone who takes a word that they say at face value needs to have their head examined for terminal deficiency.

  4. The general public sees the Afghan & Iraq wars as one general war. Now that it is clear the US is getting out of Iraq, people can’t see why the other 1/2 of the war continues.

  5. Any suggestions as to what the people controlling Kabul could do to let the air out of the “Taliban” tires? Other than just more “counter-insurgency,” and continuing the self-promotion, baksheesh collection, and prayers for their own survival and prosperity and for a quicker advent of the exhaustion with disorder that might really eventually pause, end or at least reduce the ambushes, murders, mutilations and hypocritical abuses?

    Any guesses as to whether all the players might allow any motions that might lead more quickly to a stand-down to a more stable condition? Or is the world to continue to pollute itself with the crowd’s affection for Futilitarianism, in the form of exciting, Youtube-visible asymmetric negative-sum games in Networked Battlespaces here, there and everywhere? Taking heart from reports of “progress on the battlefield,” and “successes” like the security company reporting that its guards eventually fought the Taliban off before “international assistance” arrived?

    And has “the Taliban” in fact become a political and military entity, rather than a convenient moniker for a hodgepodge of competing little bands?

  6. We have to leave Afghanistan immediately and completely, but President Obama is determined to continue warring in Afghanistan and has sent out General Petraeus to make sure we will not be leaving Afghanistan. Also, we have been shamelessly driving Pakistan to war at the expense of the Pakistani people as the neglect of Pakistanis by the military during this crisis shows clearly. We need to stop warring in Pakistan, but Obama is determined to war there and to keep Pakistanis at war.

  7. Re polls show declining support for Af-Pak war:

    Over at Small Wars Journal, the red meat Army field officer types (Col’s Gian Gentile, Paul Yingling…) are deeply divided about the Afghan surge, whether there is a reasonable prospect for political progress, let alone anything recognizable as military victory.
    link to smallwarsjournal.com

    When Pres. Obama took office, I commented on the LBJ/1964 parallel, with the danger that Afghanistan would become ‘Obama’s war’. The irony is that this midterm election cycle will likely drag both parties further to the right, continuing the 10 year trend-line towards Carl Rove’s dream of a permanent Republican majority.

  8. As with our previous imperial debacle in Southeast Asia: “We lost the day we started and we won the day we stopped.” Just stop this stupid shit. Yesterday. “Winning” more loss. What a concept.

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