The United States is planning to withdraw all its fighting capability from Afghanistan in 2014. Beginning in 2013, American forces with transition to an advisory role. That is, it will no longer conduct joint patrols or take major offensive action against the insurgency, but instead “suggest” courses of action to Afghan military personnel.
Many wonder if the Afghan Nation Security Forces (ANSF) will be able to defend the country from the Taliban after America leaves. It is my opinion that the ANSF will crumble rather quickly in the face of the insurgents. Here are the reasons why:
1) The ANSF are comprised mostly of illiterate, underpaid Pashtun males. They are unable to maintain logistics systems taught to them by Americans, and as a course of habit, will hoard bullets and fuel instead of dispensing it to the appointed units and locations. The ANSF have no means to maintain American military equipment, except perhaps some small arms. Infrastructure will deteriorate quickly.
2) Afghan culture is not conducive to discipline, order, timeliness, self-sacrifice for the group, or control of negative emotions, particularly in areas far from Kabul. Drug use, desertion, lateness, fighting and homicide are not uncommon among ANSF by Western standards. The attention to detail needed to fight an industrial strength insurgency is not present.
3) The Taliban insurgency is more disciplined than the ANSF. The ideology of Jihad creates strong bonds and stimulates initiative as well as promoting self-sacrifice for the group, even to the point of suicide attack. Though there are divisions within the insurgency, they are no greater than in most Western organizations. The Taliban uses a fairly complex logistical and governance system and each local shadow governor is held responsible for his actions by senior Taliban leadership in Quetta, Pakistan.
4) Many in the ANSF do not want to fight the Taliban. While in Afghanistan, I saw instances of fully manned police stations abandoned without a shot fired when threatened by Taliban of similar numbers. In other areas, when asked where the Taliban were located, ANSF commanders readily gave an answer. But when asked when the ANSF would attack enemy positions, the commanders only provided a laugh and a telling smile. Still more, in areas where the insurgency is strongest, Afghan border police are stationed some 10 kilometers away from the Pakistani border, allowing insurgents to easily cross into Afghanistan unmolested. At checkpoints located directly on the border, police do not bother the Taliban crossing at official checkpoints.
5) Foreign powers such as Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Syria and China have a strong interest in an insurgent takeover in Afghanistan because this will de-ligitimize American efforts in the country, sow political chaos within the American system, create doubt in the American public’s mind as to the effectiveness of military intervention, as well as provide training areas for global terrorists, especially Iranian/ Syrian Hezbollah proxy fighters. As such, these countries provide training, safe haven, and equipment to insurgents.
6) The ANSF lacks the technical intelligence capabilities of America, specifically drone and professional scout teams. Thus, insurgents will be able to mass much easier than they now do.
7) The ANSF lacks firepower. They have little artillery and almost no aircraft. Even with its incredible air supremacy, America has struggled in this war. It will be even worse for the ANSF.
As in Vietnam, Afghanistan is made up of essentially one culture, the Pashtuns. And also as in Vietnam, it is possible for one part of the culture to want to fight and the other half to have almost no will to resist. It is unfortunate for the Afghans living in Kabul, virtually a different planet from the rest of Afghanistan. Those people are ready to cast off the old ways and move into this century. But the rest of Afghanistan is not. And it will likely be less than two years after the bulk of America’s military troops leave, that Kabul falls once again to the Taliban.