Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 19:01 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 19:01 | SYDNEY

Running out of time in Afghanistan

24 August 2009 10:13

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

I gave my views on current operations in south Helmand when they commenced with such media fanfare in early July, heralding them as part of a 'surge' of troops following Obama’s 'new' strategy and arrival of additional US forces.

I pointed out that the effort in Afghanistan is still grossly under-resourced in military and non-military terms, despite US reinforcements.*

The New York Times this morning gives a worrying description of what a lack of resources means to the troops on the ground, to the Afghans that want to support their people, and to the Afghans that we must influence. I also hear that one UK battalion has had to yield hard-earned presence in their area because they do not have enough troops to both do what they must do in other places and to provide presence among the people.

In the first presidential election in Afghanistan over five years ago, conducted in a much more secure environment, 70% of the population voted. In this election, perhaps 45% to 55% will be found to have voted. A large part of the explanation of the difference comes down to how intimidated the population feels, or how useless the population thinks the voting process is because it never results in local services.

Both factors come down in some form to the lack of security provided locally, which is in no small measure due to the lack of adequate security forces. Afghan forces will not provide this security for years. Someone has to provide that security and someone has to build the Afghan military, and that is the Coalition.

Every interview I hear from the front (Australian and others), because of political sensitivity, minces around the issue of lack of security forces. Comments from the capitals of Coalition nations default to the comfortable but delusional position that the Afghans must provide the troops needed. This will not happen for years, and in the meantime, we could lose the war at home.

We only have a short period of time to be decisive before our resolve at home fails and the Afghans get totally sick of our half-hearted efforts. We need to understand what 'protecting the people' in a counter-insurgency really means and how important it is. We then need to resource it. 

* A more detailed consideration of my view of the lack of adequate resourcing is in my article in the latest Australian Army Journal — current issue not online.

Photo by flickr user submarginals, used under a Creative Commons license.