In an intelligent and provocative article in the July-August issue of Military Review, Captain Daniel Helmer describes why the U.S. and ISAF advisor missions in Afghanistan have failed, and outlines a twelve-step plan to pull the effort back from the brink. Points of note:
Live, Work, and Fight with Mentored Units. ‘In Afghanistan, advisor teams generally live apart from their Afghan units. Even when they don’t, they are often segregated from the Afghans by massive walls. Fewer key districts will fall to insurgents and mentoring will become more effective if we adopt FM 3-24’s prescription as the rule rather than the exception. Fewer ANSF members will die unnecessarily at poorly defended district centers and outposts if the key districts are identified, mentors are pushed out to them on a permanent basis, and CSTC-A provides the logistics necessary to support them and the overall COIN effort. Also, fewer mentors will be exposed to roadside bombs if they are not required to travel constantly from their bases to police stations on the limited and predictable road network.’
Develop a COIN Intelligence Capability. ‘Advisor teams are the most dispersed forces in Afghanistan, and they have the most consistent contact with Afghan security forces. They have ready access to more human intelligence than any other set of non-Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet there is no effective advisor chain for intelligence collection and no widely understood obligation for advisors to collect intelligence. Once CSTC-A is able to determine the composition of teams prior to their arrival in Afghanistan, intelligence officers should be identified and trained for every team.’
Give Advisor Teams Access to Nonlethal Effects. ‘[…] The Commanders Emergency Response Program (CECERP)—a fund for short-term humanitarian assistance projects such as wells—should become the sole province of advisor teams. This would provide, for the first time, direct access for Afghan commanders through their mentors to significant nonlethal effects. Access to such effects would enable Afghan Police and Army commanders to conduct planning and operations across all counterinsurgency lines of operation while helping to ensure that the ISAF commander supported the Afghan commander’s operations in the Afghan commander’s area of operations rather than the other way around.’
The Finns, currently underemployed in the north, would be very good at this, not least because of their civilian skills. Alas, there is little chance of them getting to do anything meaningful as long as politics dictate the direction (or rather, misdirection) of Finland’s Afghan mission.