Afghanistan News Update for Jan 8, 2017

talian Soldier training Female ANP in first aid in Herat, Afghanistan (photo by Resolute Support HQs Dec 2016)
Soldier training Female ANP in first aid in Herat, Afghanistan (photo by Resolute Support HQs Dec 2016)

Afghan Update 20170108 – Russia and the Taliban – things that make you go “Hmmmm”, development aid and COIN in Afghanistan, Afghan militias – the good and the bad, why the U.S. should stay committed to Afghanistan, and more.

Russia and Our Enemy. Putin and his cronies are not losing any opportunities to – in any way possible – make life difficult for the United States. ISIS in the Khorasan is of great concern to Russia and it sees the Taliban as a force to keep ISIS at bay and away from the Central Asian states that border Russia. In addition, Russia sees opportunities in improving its relationship with Pakistan – big supporters of the Taliban. As a result Russia is now taking an active role in advancing the cause of the Taliban. Abdullah Sharif, a former U.S. diplomat and book author, explains more “Russia and the Taliban: Strange and Worrisome Bedfellows”The Huffington Post, January 5, 2017.

Afghanistan – Beyond 2016. “To protect American interests, the incoming Trump administration should maintain civilian and military assistance to Afghanistan over time, says Scott Worden, director of Afghanistan and Central Asia programs for the U.S. Institute of Peace.” Watch a 2-min long video narrated by Scott expanding on the previous quote in Passing the Baton 2017: America’s Role in the World, January 5, 2017, posted on YouTube.com by the United States Institute of Peace.

CERP and COIN – Did it work? When the ‘big surge’ of 33,000 additional U.S. troops went into Afghanistan in 2010 (they left in 2012) a lot of development aid money went in as well. Much of this money was spent through the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). A doctoral student, Renard Sexton, has penned an article on the usefulness of CERP. His findings can be summed up with – 1) CERP was useful where security had been established and 2) CERP was less useful and sometimes led to higher levels of violence in districts that were contested. Read “Did U.S. aid win hearts and minds in Afghanistan? Yes and no.”The Washington Post, January 6, 2017.

Afghan Militias. The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) is supporting many of the militias found in Afghanistan. Some of these militias are genuine ‘popular uprisings’ – however most of these local armed groups belong to entrenched strongmen, power brokers, drug lords, criminal patronage networks, and political groups. Other militias exist outside of the support of the NDS. And then . . . there is the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Of course, there are different types of ALP. There is the ‘official ALP’ controlled by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and under the supervision of Provincial Chiefs of Police (PCoPs) and there are other groups that call themselves ALP in a quest for legitimacy but fall outside of MoI’s control. Many of these local militias oppose the Taliban and are allied with the central government – for now. But historically some have posed dangers to the Kabul government. Read more in Laura Cesaretti’s piece entitled “Afghanistan’s Militias: The Enemy Within?”The Diplomat, January 4, 2017.