Enormous Truck Bomb Kills 6 US Troops in Afghanistan as Constitutional Crisis Looms

The NYT reports that the Taliban deployed a massive truck bomb against a joint US-Afghan National Army forward operating base in the Arghandab river valley north of Qandahar, killing 6 US soldiers, injuring a handful of others, and wounding as many as 11 Afghanistan National Army troops. The soldiers who were killed were inside a new adobe building, which collapsed on them when the truck rammed it and the payload was detonated. The US is building a network of FOBs in the vicinity of Qandahar in a bid to push the Taliban out of this key southern Pashtun city. It seems obvious that the Taliban were given key intel on how to carry out this strike on US troops, by someone on the Afghanistan side at the joint base, again raising the question of whether the US plan quickly to train up another 100,000 local troops will not afford the enemy significant infiltration opportunities. It should be remembered that ARVN, the South Vietnamese army, turns out to have been riddled with Viet Cong sympathizers who were essentially double agents, and this at the level of the officer corps.

Some 20,000, or one in five of, Afghan National Police recruits have quit in just the past year.

In a new opinion poll of Afghans, 55 percent of respondents said they wanted US troops to leave their country.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan may be facing a constitutional crisis, as Attorney General Ishaq Aloko, an appointee of President Hamid Karzai, continues to impugn the integrity of this fall’s parliamentary election and to call for it to be abrogated. The Independent Electoral Commission, which threw out a fourth of the ballots on suspicion of fraud, insists that the remaining votes were legitimate. The results, however, were disadvantageous to the Pashtun ethnic group, which is roughly 44 percent of the country, since so many of them declined to vote for fear of Taliban reprisals (Taliban are mostly drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group and operate in the areas they dominate). Although the Hazara Shiites are only probably about a fifth of the populations, they gained about 2/5s of the seats. Hazaras are a kind of lower caste in Afghan society and it does not help parliament’s legitimacy in the Pashtun regions for there to be so few Pashtun deputies or for there to be so very many Hazara ones. The Commission warned of blood in the streets if Aloko continues to press for a dissolution of the new parliament (apparently in hopes of finding a way to strengthen the Pashtun element in the lower house).

As if all this bad news were not bad enough, President Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, is in critical condition after being operated on for a torn aorta, after a sudden collapse. Some of the political crisis over the election outcome may be brewing in part because Holbrooke is not in Kabul to seek a compromise.

11 Responses

  1. Six more mothers, wives, and children without their important loved one. And for what purpose? Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghani mothers, wives, and children without their important loved one. What is the US doing to the world?

  2. I think Karzai smarter than do many. Cunning actually. He well knows there is no military solution in Afghanistan. He knows that the more houses we smash into in the middle of the night, the more the killing and devastation, the worse the eventual outcome. And if he stays around too long, his life is in jeopardy and all the money in Dubai useless to him if he ends up assassinated.

    I think Karzai is preparing a two pronged strategy, for himself of course. Let’s see how right this prognostication turns out to be.

    1) I think Karzai is getting ready to “retire” if you will, to resign his office and go to Dubai where his accounts are shall we say, in very good order.

    He will blame the Americans and really unleash his criticisms at such time. He will gain his personal safety and enhance his credibility with the nationalist factions of the Pashtun.

    2) With his safety (and financial status secure) and his credibility enhanced, he is not removed from the political fray, far from it. His position is vastly enhanced to be the kingmaker in the eventual outcome, whatever that may be. And it may be as “king” in an overt way, since that is the only structure that has ever worked for long in Afghanistan.

    What most American never really focus on, is the fact that the Pashtun are primarily nationalist in central dynamics, with Islam as the veneer. (Just like in Vietnam, where nationalism was also the driving force to re-unify their country, and with in that case Communism as the veneer.)

    Most Pashtun reside east of the Durand Line, that is in Pakistan. Being as it is essentially impossible and infeasible to ever seal the border, they maintain a strategic reserve that is fundamental in most ultimately successful insurgencies in the nature of a Peoples War.

    The Pakistanis know this too. That is why they are fundamentally conflicted on this war, and play both sides. On the one hand, they have taken significant military suppression campaigns against the anti-Pakistani Taliban (Pashtun) but refuse to do anything really important against the anti-ISAF Taliban forces in the FATA which are headquartered in Quetta.

    Quetta, the main city of Pakistani Baluchistan, is a natural fort, surrounded as it is by imposing hills on all sides. We are informed that most of the Taliban high command is centered there, safe from Predator drone strikes with their Hellfire missiles.

    So cut and paste this one, and let’s see if this internet prognosticator turns out to be correct.

    With much thanks again to Professor Cole.

  3. Six more Americans dead on the Afghanistan war front but does America notice? Nope. Because the real war front is in Washington D.C. and battles are raging there.

    Afghanistan and Iraq were proxy wars to America’s domestic war over culture, religion and taxes.

  4. I’m wondering, Prof.Cole, if you have a response to this open letter signed by people like Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Cornell West, and Cindy Sheehan (to name but a few) and addressed to the “Left Establishment”:

    link to protestobama.org

    “We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

    In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.”

    • Thank you for posting the link. However, I was actually more interested if you had a response to it. In any case, I do understand that you are very busy.

      Also, I was happy to see that Michael Moore has decided support the protest on his blog.

  5. This is terrible news that so many more lost their lives and got hurt.. I had so hoped the US President would see the wisdom of removing US military involvement from Afghanistan and throwing the full weight of his office and the voice at his command toward the strategic interest of keeping the planet alive by retooling to stop global overheating but he visited to raise morale in a war instead. He must know by now the war should have ended a long time ago and never started in the first place.. I should make weekly reports on how many people in a row driving past respond with a peace sign on Main Street each Saturday.. Last Saturday there were 4 in a row and the week before 6 twice which is more than I’ve ever seen before.. The people want to be at peace as do the people of Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world..

  6. Juan,

    please read the article you quoted on ANP attrition:
    link to truthdig.com

    According to the article you quoted, total ANP attrition has averaged 1.5% per month over the last year. This matches numbers I have seen from NTM-A. This is an annualized attrition rate of 16.6%. {1-[1-1.5%]^12}

    The Afghan ministry of interior target is 16.8% attrition. MoI is almost exactly at their target.

    16.6% = wounded + killed + AWOL + [1 – percentage reenlistment rate]*[1/(3 year enlisted term)]

    This is a remarkably low attrition rate given the high ANP casualty rate.

    The Afghan MoI plans to have 23,000 training seats at any given time at end state. That is train 23,000 ANP at any given time through MG Patang’s Afghan National Police Training Command. [up from 1 or 2 thousand when Obama was elected.]

    If we assume that the average length of ANP training is 6 months [averaged between officers who are trained much longer and AUP enlisted privates who are trained much less], then the current Afghan MoI training cycle trains 46,000 ANP per year, or 23,000 * [12 months/6 months.]

    46,000 ANP trained per year multiplied by 1 divided by 16.6%. Or 46,000 * 1/16.6% = 276,000 ANP end state.

    In other words if the ANP retains the current attrition rate, then the ANP will eventually stabilize at a strenght of 276,000. The ANP has 121,0000 right now, up from about 85 thousand a year ago.

    In other words the current ANP attrition rate means that the ANP will continue to grow at a very rapid rate.

    One of the largest problems in discussions about Afghanistan is that people don’t carefully analyze what they say and why they say it. The ANP article is on balance positive about the ANP.

    Keep in mind that the real issue regarding ANP isn’t aggregate attrition, but attrition for specific parts of the ANP. For example the AUP has a 1.1%/month attrition rate, while the ANCOP has an average attrition rate of about 2.2%/month.

    • All of which is statistically very interesting, but of course blows completely past those silly fundamental questions.

      Like what “our” strategic and national interests were and are, what in aggregate the people in Notagainistan might want and need to arrive at some kind of stability, what are the actually achievable Great Goals for the next one, ten and 50 years, and what possible utility there is in having another militarized gaggle of hash-using, largely un-civilized (as opposed to half-trained-warriorized tribespeople) subject to being “re-deployed” under what “we” would call an “unfriendly” warlord/dictator or otherwise running amok. Since “we” have shown such military and statecraft genius at creating fertile ground for what “we” would call Bad Seed. Hussein and the Shah and so many others rose up and prospered with nutrients and munitions and “training” (like that provided at the School of the Americas) supplied by our really wise geopoliticians.

      So take the mindless militaristic approach, and start with that demonstrably false assumption that “an army” is a force for social good or even political stability. Take comfort that, if your selective sources are correct, the reports of defection and disaffection in ANP and AUP may be somewhat exaggerated. If things go as our planners appear to intend (they having shown such powerful skill sets in war and post-war planning in the past,) you will have a quarter million heavily armed males, with warrior genes and traditions and tribal loyalties that are far stronger than any “esprit de corpse” that could ever be induced by those mercenary “trainers” and any amount of speechifying by “our” warlords.

      Those dudes will be looking to apply their new skills (consisting not of nation-building but of head-busting and “lighting up”) to SOMEbody, in aid of some strongman’s purposes, and in pursuit of personal gain and family security and the satisfaction that comes from being powerful and pretty much free from civil constraints.

      The wealth of nations makes armies. Armies don’t make nations, they make and maintain empires. People who find themselves part of a nation ought to get to choose whether they want to support the cancer of a large standing military, but the guys with the guns tend to dictate the “choice.”

      Good luck with the math on that.

    • You should also read the entire article rather than just the government press release at the end. The article clearly states that over 20,000 ANP officers have left during 2010 and that NATO has only recruited appproximately 31,000 trainees in 2010. Thus, if we subtract that 20,000 from 31,000 we only get a net gain of about 11,000. Obviously, the eventual gain will be even less because not all officers will successfully graduate from the program, some will desert while the training program is still ongoing, etc. Also, it is well known in Afghanistan that these official figures are substantially inflated. Often one person will register several times for training (and thus receive several payments). Also, it is very common for an individual to enroll in training, stay for several months, drop out, than re enroll. In addition, police commanders often deliberately inflate numbers to obtain additional payments from the government to support and pay non existent officers (This is also a problem in the Afghan Army). The various military contractors doing the training also have a motive to inflate training figures, as they are paid based on the number of recruits they train. The article also clearly illustrates how inadequate the training being provided is (Most recruits don’t even know the law that they are supposed to enforce at the end of the training period). Thus, if we assume that the current attrition does not grow worse, and we assume that the training capacity you claim is an accurate depiction of actual training capacity, than the force will increase by approximately 26,000 per year (Once again assuming no attrition during the training period which is not realistic). At this rate, it will take approximately SIX years to properly train 150,000 extra recruits. Of course even if it is achieved, this figure will not accurately represent the real numbers of police officers, and does not mean that most of these officers have actually received competant training. If we look at the actual current rate of recruitment – attrition, the process will take substantially longer. Of course, given the fact that Afghanistan is becoming more unstable and the security situation is worsening, the rate of attrition will significantly increase over the next few years.

  7. The ANA now has either 10 or 11 combat infantry battalions in Kandahar province, and they are inflicting a lot of pain on the QST. The QST is likely to continue to hit them. The ANA is the primary long term target of the QST.

    The ANSF have infiltrated the QST and the QST has infiltrated the ANSF. This is the nature of civil and regional war. It is my view the NDS may have infiltrated the QST better than the QST has infiltrated the ANA officer corps or NDS.

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