NATO Scales Back Joint Patrols with Afghan Forces

News Brief – September 18, 2012

NATO forces in Afghanistan will now limit joint patrols with their Afghan counterparts in an effort to contain a worrying trend.
An upsurge in ‘green-on-blue’ incidents – when local Afghan security personal have turned on NATO forces – is thought to have prompted the change. So far this year 51 international troops have been killed in such attacks.
Nonetheless British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted that there had been no fundamental change in policy over Afghanistan.
“It is simply one of a number of measures” the Defence Seretary told MP’s on Tuesday. “It is not a strategic change, it is an operational matter being reported from theatre alongside many others.”
The Defence Secretary was adamant that the announcement by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was only a “draft order” and would have limited impact on UK forces in Afghanistan.
The ISAF announced in an overnight statement that most joint patrols between Afghan troops and the ISAF will now be restricted to battalion level and above; with co-operation between smaller units being “evaluated on a case-by-case basis” and subject to approval by regional commanders.
Despite the minister’s mealy-mouthed denial however, the limiting of joint patrols represents a operational setback for the ISAF. At the very least because it signifies a fundamental breakdown of trust between the international forces and their Afghan counterparts.
This has been emphasised by efforts to prevent more ‘green-on-blue’ attacks, in which local intelligence personal are being integrated into Afghan operational units to keep an eye on them. In other words, Afghan security forces are now being monitored by informers within their own ranks. 
Whether that will be enough to prevent further insider attacks remains to be seen but Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who commanded UN troops in Bosnia as an Army colonel, welcomed the decision to scale back joint patrols.
Col Stewart said British troops should now be withdrawn from Afghanistan “as fast as possible”.
“I don’t see why we should continue to push our young men out into the field just to be targets.”
MP Denis MacShane went further and described the change as biggest change in strategy since Coalition forces invaded the country in 2001.
Dr MacShane said that he believed Mr Hammond had not been fully informed by the Pentagon about the impending change and said it amounted to a “humiliation” for the Defence Secretary.
The former Europe minister added: “You can’t train an army that turns on you, that puts on your uniform and shoots you in the back. This isn’t warfare, this is cold-blooded murder.”
While Dr Macshane’s indignation may curry favour with voters in his home constituancy however, it overlooks the fact that Western forces are involved in exactly the same activity in Afghanistan.
What else do you call deadly drone attacks on rural villagers or lethal airstrikes on wedding parties but “cold-bloodied murder”? It is certainly not the “liberation” George Bush and Tony Blair promised over a decade ago.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t address the real question as to why Western forces are in Afghanistan in the first place? This question is all the more pressing as not only the Taliban, but now elements in the military serving the government we installed are working to oust Western occupiers.
To answer that question we only need look at figures for Afghan drug production. Just over a decade ago, the then ruling Taliban effectively outlawed the growth of Afghanistan’s poppy plants, which until then had supplied 75% of the world’s opium.
By May 2000 Afghanistan’s drugs trade was in terminal decline. Yet little more than a year later the toppling of the Taliban brought a dramatic turnaround.
In the aftermath of the Western led invasion, Afghanistan’s drugs trade was transformed. Following its ‘liberation’, Afghanistan’s opium production skyrocketed from 185 tonnes per annum under the Taliban to 5,800 under Western occupation.
That’s an increase of more than 30 fold in little more than a decade. So the real beneficiaries from the occupation have been not the country’s subsistance farmers or even Westerner drug users ready to resort to crime to fund their soul-destroying dependency.
No, the real benficiaries from the invasion have been the criminal drug cartels and their allies in Western governments and the arms industry.
It cannot be overemphasised: the Western led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was to revive the country’s moribund drugs trade. And even if Westerners forces now withdraw you can sure it will only be after a deal has been reached with elements of the Taliban willing to allow Afghanistan’s drugs trade to continue.

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