NATO Campaign in Afghanistan Going Down the Drain
Voice of Russia
October 17, 2012
NATO campaign in Afghanistan going down the drain
A recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction states that NATO forces in Afghanistan have been exposed to a greater risk of Taliban attacks because of fraud.
According to the report, Afghan contractors paid to seal drainage channels failed to do so in more than 100 cases. In terms of NATO forces’ security this means that effective spots for placing explosives under roads remained intact.
The BBC reports that such attacks account for hundreds of foreign troops being killed been since the war began in 2001.
To reduce the risk, the US military has paid contractors to install metal grates over the channels to prevent anyone from getting inside.
But investigators said there was evidence of fraud in the work and in many cases no metal grate was installed.
The investigation is still going on, but in any case this is likely to deepen mistrust between NATO and the Afghans.
Another report, published by the New York Times on Monday, states that the morale of the newly recruited soldiers of the Afghan National Army is so low that it endangers the prospects of successfully containing the Taliban after Western troops withdraw from the country.
Afghan soldiers complain of corruption among their officers, poor food and equipment, indifferent medical care, Taliban intimidation of their families and, most troublingly, a lack of belief in the army’s ability to fight the insurgents.
One fact reported by the Times speaks for itself. When an Afghan colonel interviews recruits for the Afghan National Army the first thing he does is take their cell phones. Then he checks whether the telephone contains Taliban campaign tunes as ringtones, whether the screen savers show Taliban symbols, or whether there are any Taliban-related videos on the phone.
Often enough they flunk the test, but that does not prevent them from being enlisted. The Afghan army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, states the Times.
“There are drug traffickers who want to use our units for their business, enemy infiltrators who want to raise problems, jailbirds who can’t find any other job,” said the colonel at the recruiting center.
Despite the fact that Afghanistan’s army reached its full authorized strength in June, three months ahead of schedule, there are still no units that American trainers consider able to operate entirely without NATO assistance.
Both stories sound rather grim and show the two dangers facing Afghanistan in the nearest future – corruption and the imminent collapse of the whole security system, so elaborately being constructed by the West.
But frankly, what is new in both stories?
The fact that Afghanistan ranks among the most corrupt countries of the world second only to Somalia has been evident for years. The very fact that the present government can survive only thanks to Western (primarily, American) financial and military aid and has no hopes to remain in power after NATO leaves means that the sole objective of the present-day rulers is to safeguard their own personal welfare and comfortable life – be it in Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the Pacific islands, or elsewhere – after they are kicked out of their homeland.
So, corruption was created by the foreign invasion and has been sustained by Western military presence.
As for the low morale of the newly recruited troops, the story does not seem surprising at all. In a country where the bulk of the GDP is created by drug production, there are too few options for a young man to earn at least a relatively decent living. One of them is drug trafficking, the other – serving in the army, which provides – however poor – food, shelter, clothes and money. Combining the two seems even more profitable, since an army soldier has many more chances of assisting his drug-trafficking friends by using military vehicles and airplanes exempt from road and border checks.
The two contenders for the White House might have said a lot during their campaign and debates about what successes have been achieved in Afghanistan (Obama’s line), or what failures have befallen the US campaign, what mistakes have been made and what should have been done (Romney’s).
But neither of the statements sounds true – in fact, the core mistake was made in October 2001, when the US started its gamble in Afghanistan. All the rest is just natural consequences of that.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies