24-28 APRIL 2010 - VISIT TO AFGHANISTAN
BY MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY’S BUREAU, THE STANDING COMMITTEE AND COMMITTEE OFFICERS
1. Combined Afghan-NATO efforts in
2. This is the principal conclusion brought back by a delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that visited
3. During its time in Kabul, the delegation met with members of the upper and lower houses of the Afghan parliament; the Afghan ministers of Defence and Interior, as well as the National Security Adviser to the President; the senior leadership of ISAF and of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NMT-A), and other senior military and diplomatic officials.
4. The delegation also visited the USFOR-A Counterinsurgency Academy, and travelled to
II. POLITICAL CONTEXT
A. General context
5. The visit took place as preparations for an effort to dislodge insurgent activity from the
6. Afghan and international officials agreed with members of the delegation that maintaining support among the Afghan public as well as troop contributing nation publics was vital to success, and that communicating progress to respective constituencies was especially important. In this regard, Afghan officials and members of the delegation each stressed that the challenges posed by ongoing instability, drugs or the necessity to win hearts and minds are common to both Afghanistan and its international partners and that victory can only be achieved through joint efforts.
7. While they voiced serious concern about the risk of renewed fraud, Afghan parliamentarians emphasized the importance of holding the parliamentary elections as planned on 18 September, a message echoed by National Security Advisor Spanta. Parliamentarians regretted that responsibilities for the fraud committed during presidential elections were not established, warning that this might encourage more fraud during the upcoming elections. Yunus Qanooni, Speaker of the Lower House, argued that successful elections would require adequate security conditions, as well as measures to ensure transparency and oversight of the voting process. The first point was echoed by Sibghatullah Mojaddeddi, Speaker of the Upper House, who emphasized that relieving the population of the fear of intimidation and violence would go a long way in ensuring broad participation and freedom of choice. The appointment of Fazel Ahmed Manawi as the new Head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was widely welcomed, but parliamentarians stressed that more needed to be done to ensure greater transparency of the vote, including staff changes also in lower level electoral commissions. All parliamentarians also urged international partners to send observers in large numbers.
C. Political reform
8. Speaker Qanooni also called for elections to be followed by renewed impetus for political reform; in his view, this process was necessary to increase the population’s confidence in the institutions of government, bring citizens back on the side of the authorities, and ultimately help defeat the enemy.
9. Afghan parliamentary leaders also called for greater support for their efforts to oversee the executive branch, lamenting that the Parliament had been “marginalized” and “sidelined” for five years. Of particular concern to them was the fact that international officials continued to deal with appointees to the Karzai government who had been rejected by Parliament. Parliamentarians also stressed the need to involve Parliament more in the hearts and minds campaign.
D. Reconciliation and reintegration
10. The renewed momentum for reconciliation and reintegration of insurgents featured prominently in the delegation’s discussions. While recognizing the importance of this process, Afghan parliamentarians from the Lower House were skeptical that a breakthrough could be achieved at the upcoming peace jirga as long as the Taliban refused to participate. Afghan officials also suggested that foreign support for the insurgency continued, and that it would be impossible to defeat it without addressing this fundamental situation.
11. Mr Mojaddeddi offered a more optimistic perspective, citing the significant work accomplished by the National Reconciliation Commission since 2005 with limited resources, leading to the reintegration of some 9,000 former Taliban fighters.
12. Minister of Interior Atmar listed three main conditions for further progress on reconciliation:
13. Minister Atmar told the delegation that
14. All Afghan interlocutors made it clear however that respect for the Constitution was the “red line” for any reconciliations talks. In the words of Mr Qanooni, the objective of the reconciliation effort should be to “bring Taliban into the process, and not to talibanize the process”.
III. A NEW CIVIL-MILITARY APPROACH
A. The counterinsurgency approach
15. Under General
16. Given the proliferation of organisational agendas in
B. A new organisational structure
17. The new approach was supported by a new organisational structure that solidified unity of command and strengthened the civilian component at all levels, and an increased number of international troops (50,000
18. Unity of command, one of the principles advocated by General McChrystal, had been improved by a new command structure, which now includes a subordinate ISAF Joint Command, responsible for coordinating the day to day operational and tactical level tasks involved in managing ongoing operations, and thus frees ISAF headquarters to focus on more strategic tasks. Another change was that, contrary to previous practice, roughly 92% of
19. The NATO Senior Civilian Representative’s (SCR) mandate has also been reinforced with a view to better coordinating civilian efforts, both at the central and local levels. One of the important new functions of the SCR will be to orchestrate national contributions to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) to ensure that they are better harmonised and support the main objectives set at the central level.
20. The civilian presence is also being strengthened at the regional and provincial levels. At Regional Command-East (RC-East), the number of civilian experts increased from 30 in June 2009 to 175 today, though more experts are still needed in specific fields, such as agricultural development and the rule of law. U.S.-led PRTs in RC-East are implementing a “unified action concept”, whereby military and civilian efforts are closely integrated throughout the chain of command. Similar efforts at enhanced civilian-military integration are being carried out at the Lashkar Gah PRT in
C. Focused operations
21. The main military efforts under the new approach were to focus on eighty-some districts of the over 300 in
22. Military leaders argued that because the new approach (agreed in September 2009) was resourced through an influx of
IV. PREPARING AFGHAN NATIONAL SECURITY FORCES FOR TRANSITION
23. All eyes were now on the coming process of ‘transition,’ a term intended to suggest an orderly process of transferring lead security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), as well as in other, non-security areas. Such a process would take place only when and where conditions were appropriate, according to international officials.
24. Afghan officials insisted that transition should not be a euphemism for a premature exit strategy, and that while they were eager to provide for themselves, they needed international partners to remain until they were ready to do so. They were well aware of the political pressures building in western partner countries to bring troops home, but were adamant that, in the words of Lower House Speaker Qanooni, “leaving the job done half way means a formal recognition of the terrorists”.
A. NTM-A and ANSF progress
25. Defence Minister Wardak told the delegation that the security was an Afghan responsibility, but that until the ANSF were able to operate fully independently, help from international partners was essential and appreciated. He suggested the ANSF lacked enabling capabilities, explaining that the Afghan National Army (ANA) lacked firepower, mobility, and counter-improvised explosive device technology. Air transport and reconnaissance were also lacking. Wardak stated that all recruitment goals were being exceeded and that retention rates were improving.
26. The Afghan National Police (ANP), for its part, was progressing both in quantity of trained personnel and their quality, according to Interior Minister Atmar. Atmar cited a recent UN survey showing that for the first time in decades, more than 40% of the Afghan population say they can trust the police forces. He suggested that press reporting on the progress of the police has lagged behind the reality.
27. The Delegation visited the headquarters of the NTM-A at Camp Eggers for a comprehensive briefing on the Mission’s progress in ensuring that the ANA and ANP are trained and equipped, with an eye to taking lead security responsibility from ISAF forces.
29. NTM-A leaders suggested the main challenges faced by the ANSF were widespread illiteracy, drug use, high attrition rates, and a dearth of leadership. Several initiatives were making progress in addressing these problems. For example, beyond ensuring that all police were trained (including in literacy), the pay of the ANP had been raised to parity with the ANA; the use of ‘embedded’ partners with Afghan units deploying after training was providing an additional layer of support, supervision, and assistance in the field; and rotation schedules were under review with an eye towards providing more predictability, addressing over-use of certain units, and lowering attrition.
30. Sustainability of the ANSF over the long term would be a challenge; current estimates of the annual costs of maintaining the forces amounted to roughly $6 billion per year.
B. Partnering with the ANSF
31. Officials at Regional Command East praised the benefits of the new embedded partnership approach in which trainers lived, planned, and operated with Afghan units. According to officials at ISAF’s Joint Command (IJC), embedded partnering addressed problems of accountability and infiltration in Afghan units. It also reduced the risk to the international troops doing the partnering, according to IJC officials, who stated that international units patrolling with ANSF had a 30% chance of being attacked, whereas international units unaccompanied by ANSF faced a 70% chance of attack. The gains of the embedded partnership approach could not be fully realized, however, because nations continued to impose caveats on their trainers, who were therefore prevented from deploying with the Afghan units they partnered with. IJC officials pleaded for giving the Commander the maximum flexibility possible to employ the forces under his command.
C. The European Union Police
32. The European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) continued to face recruitment problems, as its strength was authorized to 400 international trainers but only 286 had so far been fielded – 2/3 of them in Kabul. On the other hand, 90% of EUPOL’s police trainers had a career in policing in their home countries. Discussions on a revision of the Mission’s mandate were ongoing, with a possible expansion into the district level from the central, regional, and provincial levels EUPOL currently operates in, a prospect welcomed by NTM-A. While EUPOL’s main effort focused on monitoring, mentoring, advising and training the police, the mission also conducted activities in the area of the rule of law, including various initiatives to combat corruption in the police and the Ministry of Interior.
33. The International Police Co-ordination Board (IPCB) had been restructured and revitalized in 2009, leading to far better co-ordination and de-confliction of police training activities among the various entities contributing to the effort.
34. EUPOL officials continued to call for a NATO-EU technical agreement that would replace the cooperation agreements that have had to be negotiated with all PRT lead nations across Afghanistan; this is increasingly important as these lead nations are likely to change in coming months (with, for example, the withdrawal of Dutch combat forces).
V. BETTER INTEGRATING GOVERNANCE INTO MILITARY PLANNING
35. In the new population-centric counterinsurgency approach, one of the key objectives of military operations is to create a favorable environment for legitimate Afghan authorities to be able to deliver governance and development. Overall, this approach thus aims to better integrate the imperatives of governance and development into the military planning process in order to ensure a seamless transition from the “clear” phase to the “hold” phase which would allow enduring local control to be established over the area.
36. Surveys commissioned by ISAF showed that perceptions of security among the Afghan population are tied mainly to the existence of functioning institutions of governance. ISAF officials pointed out however that Taliban institutions continue to pose a serious challenge to legitimate authorities, as they provide services that the Afghan government was often unable to deliver. As these parallel structures were financed mostly through a Taliban-run taxation system, re-taking control of the roads, it was argued, would go a long way in cutting down sources of revenue for the insurgency, as well as securing freedom of movement.
37. A visit by the Delegation to Regional Command South underlined the extent to which the new counterinsurgency approach is dictating operational decision-making. Indeed, governance and partnering with Afghans were central concerns for the Commander (
38. Adapting the way PRTs operate could also help strengthen local governance and ownership. As one NATO official put it, PRTs need to become “real partners for Afghan authorities at the local level”. This meant moving progressively from “military delivery of development assistance” to “multilateral internationalised support to local efforts”, a shift that should also facilitate co-ordination with UN and NGO-led reconstruction efforts.
A. Local governance in the South
40. Current efforts focused on closing existing gaps in security and governance, particularly in Nad Ali and Marjeh, and “connecting bubbles of progress”. Ongoing efforts in Nad Ali in the past 15 months were bearing fruits. A similar sense of security had not yet been established in Marjah, but progress there was expected to follow a faster trajectory than in Nad Ali thanks to the lessons learned from previous operations, the amount of resources committed to the effort and the remarkable level of involvement of Afghan authorities. The 2020 Helmand Plan foresaw an endstate in which security and freedom of movement were guaranteed, conditions were set for long-term economic development in the
41. Commanders explained that
42. Nevertheless, National Security Adviser Spanta warned that establishing good governance in
VI. BUILDING UP THE JUSTICE SECTOR
A. Challenges in the justice sector
43. Progress in the justice sector was consistently mentioned as an essential priority for the consolidation of the rule of law throughout the country, but one where many challenges remained. Taliban justice continued to be seen by many citizens as a quicker, more reliable and less corrupt mechanism for dispute resolution. For Mr Spanta, however, “the Taliban bring judgement, not justice”, a difference it was important to understand and emphasize.
44. Nevertheless, a lot still needed to be done to build up judicial institutions throughout the country and at the different levels of administration, to guarantee adequate conditions of security and freedom of movement for justice to be delivered, and to reach out to the population. It was argued that the informal justice sector – through local elders and shuras – would likely continue to provide a necessary complement to formal structures, particularly in dealing with simple low-level disputes.
B. The Detention Facility in Parwan
45. The delegation’s visit to the Detention Facility in Parwan also provided a unique opportunity to discuss problems relating to the detention and judgement of suspects arrested by foreign troops during the course of military operations. The facility is under the command of U.S. Joint Task Force 435: it is not an ISAF initiative.
46. JTF 435 officials told the delegation that General McChrystal’s assessment had identified detention as a critical element for the success of the counterinsurgency campaign, yet the way it had been handled previously had made it a strategic liability. The state-of-the-art facility at Parwan aimed to address past problems and provide both an immediate solution for detaining national security suspects arrested by US forces and a model for further reform of the Afghan prison system in accordance with (or exceeding) international standards. It was foreseen that control of the facility would be progressively handed over to Afghan authorities between 2011 and 2014. A January 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between seven Afghan Ministries with responsibilities in the rule of law sector set a timeline for capacity building efforts and for the different steps of the transition.
47. One important aspect of this process was the establishment of a uniform procedure for handling individual cases as part of the Afghan criminal justice system. Eventually, it is envisioned that the detention facility will function as part of a larger Justice Centre in Parwan, which would act as the central location in the country for the pre-trial detention, prosecution, and post-trial incarceration of national security suspects.
48. The delegation toured part of the facility, including visit and interrogation rooms, the information collection bay, regular and isolation cells, medical facilities, vocational and education classrooms and the hearing room for Detainee Review Boards – the administrative bodies currently responsible for all decisions on individual detainee cases.
APPENDIX : List of participants
The delegation was composed as follows:
Sven Mikser(Estonia ), Vice-President of the NATO PA
Jack Segal, the Chief Political Adviser to the Commander, Joint Force Command Brunssum
APPENDIX: list of meetings
Speaker of the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga) H.E. Yunus Qanooni
ISAF Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Nick Parker
OTHER DIPLOMATIC OFFICIALS
EU Police Mission in Afghanistan Representatives
Turquoise Mountain Foundation
This report was prepared by Ruxandra Popa, Director of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, and Alex Tiersky, Director of the Defence Committee.