Wanted to share some slides from a briefing I attended in Dec at the Intelligence Warfighting Summit (IWS) in Tucson. COL Andrea Thompson (ISAF J2 OPS) gave an excellent overview of the state of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Although the brief is UNCLASS and thus lacking a high level of detail, it still provides some great insight into the strategy of the Taliban (and affiliated groups) as we head into 2010.
Afghan Insurgency (COL Thompson) - 10 DEC 09
A few things that stuck out to me:
-Growing influence of the Haqqani Network (HQN). The complicated relationship between Siraj Haqqani, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), and AQ proper is still unclear and seems to be changing. We here at al Sahwa agree with Bill Roggio from the LWJ, who asserts that Haqqani is running a large portion of the Taliban network in Eastern Afghanistan. With the unwillingness of the Pakistani Army to target the HQN, it leaves him free to run rampant on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Some analysts also believe his network was responsible for last week's attack on the CIA station in Khowst.
-Statement that the insurgency can "sustain itself indefinitely." This assessment thus lends itself to the need for a population-centric COIN campaign aimed to improve confidence in the Afghan government and bolster ANSF.
-Increased attempt to influence urban centers. The surge strategy is taking some risk and focusing additional troops to secure key urban areas, despite a historic focus on rural areas by the Taliban. Not sure I agree with this part of the ISAF assessment. Hopefully it is correct or else our gamble to secure Kandahar and Kabul might end up back-firing.
-Taliban Code of Conduct. We've seen a good deal of discussion about this already, but worth noting that Mullah Omar's top priority is, "to keep people and their property safe." He must have been reading FM 3-24. Also important to note the continued emphasis on increasing the frequency and lethality of IED attacks across the country.
-Dramatic increase in IED activity. In line with the stated strategy of the Taliban, the charts in the brief show three disturbing trends in terms of IED activity: 1) Increased frequency; 2) Increased size/lethality; 3) Switch to use of home-made explosives (HME) vs. military-grade munitions. These trends are similar to what occurred in Iraq from 2004-08. This makes it critical to develop a comprehensive plan within each BN area of operations to target the IED networks using a holistic, network-analysis methodology. We must take the lessons learned from success in Iraq and apply them to the problem in Afghanistan. Route clearance and "LOC security" are not a long-term solution and often end up making the problem worse.
-Chart showing all of the negative influences on the Afghan central government. Highlights the extreme level of corruption, which propagates a cycle of bribes in return for "Permission, Protection, Punishment." The end take-away is that very little money that's intended to improve the daily life of the Afghan populace is actually having an impact. COL Thompson discussed her role as the head of the newly formed Anti-Corruption Task Force (ACTF), whose primary role is to enforce legitimacy and try to root out corrupt officials at the national/provincial/district level...definitely a huge challenge.
Just some initial thoughts...would love to hear what others think. Do you agree/disagree with the ISAF assessment? How can we leverage some of the vulnerabilities that COL Thompson highlighted?