Operations in Afghanistan - Defence Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 66-112)

  Q66 Chair: Welcome to our meeting on Operations in Afghanistan. Could I ask you all to introduce yourselves? Professor Farrell, would you like to start?

  Professor Farrell: My name is Theo Farrell. I am Professor of War in the Modern World in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. For the past few years, I've been researching the British military campaign in Afghanistan, and I provide advice to the British Army, the Ministry of Defence and ISAF on military operations in Afghanistan.

  Colonel Kemp: I'm Richard Kemp. I was an Army officer for almost 30 years and served in Afghanistan as Commander of British Forces in the latter half of 2003 and I worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment staff on international terrorism, including aspects of Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, excluding that period in 2003 when I was actually in Afghanistan. I've been out of the Service since 2006, and I keep a close interest in what is happening in Afghanistan. I make occasional comments in the media and I write articles about the subject.

  Professor King: I'm Anthony King. I am Professor of Sociology at Exeter University. I've been working over the last few years on the Armed Forces. I've just finished a book on European Military Transformation. As a result of that book, I have been developing close links with the British Armed Forces and, indeed, armed forces in Europe and a little bit in America. That has resulted in certain bits of advisory and consultancy work, including spending some time out in Regional Command South under General Nick Carter this year in the Prism Cell, providing some advice and analysis for him there.

  Chair: Colonel Kemp, is it you who has to leave by 3.30?

  Colonel Kemp: If that is at all possible and does not inconvenience you, yes.

  Chair: We'll rattle through, I'm sure. But if there is anything you need to come in on, please indicate and we'll try to get you in early on anything you need to say.

  Colonel Kemp: Thank you.

  Q67 Chair: Could you all begin please by telling us from your different perspectives what you think the key issues in Afghanistan are? Who would like to begin?

  Professor King: Sure. For me, and this is based on my experiences working in Kandahar for Regional Command South, the issue is fundamental and simple: it is the politics. In so far as we get the politics right in Afghanistan, in so far as we identify a coherent political regime that we can support and generate over the next three to five to 10 years, we will be successful, and in so far as we fail to prioritise the politics of the Afghan environment, we will fail. Obviously, one of the sub-points there is that in so far as we prioritise a certain kind of military activity before political analysis and political understanding, it will be very difficult for us out there. I think huge progress has been made in the last 12 months or so in terms of our political understanding of that theatre and of that country. It is plausible to have some optimism that precisely the regime focus is coming into view now. I hope that the work that Regional Command South did under Nick Carter will help that and that that will be taken forward by his successor; 10th Mountain Division took over on Monday, and perhaps we are moving into a plane now of political sophistication that may be successful.

  Colonel Kemp: There are three areas I shall touch on, if I may, and obviously I am happy to expand on any of them if you wish. First, I completely agree with Professor King about the need to address the political situation. As far as I can see, we are far from where we should be in terms of having an effective non-corrupt Government in Kabul replicated right the way down to the lowest levels of Government. Without that, I don't think any other progress that is being made will be sustainable in the long term without a continuous presence from NATO Forces.

  Having said that, at the tactical level in Afghanistan, from what I have seen—I haven't been out there for a while, but I have been following events on the ground closely—the American troop surge is getting towards its final point of build-up, which I believe it is not at yet, but since we have had a significantly increased number of forces in Helmand, in particular, ISAF Forces have been making considerable progress against the Taliban. They are at the tactical level on the ground. It is my estimate that some time during the course of next year, probably the early part, we will probably see some significant progress and evidence of the situation being turned around against the Taliban. But I would stress that that is on the ground, tactical and still dependent on the political position.

  I think the other area within that is the actions of Pakistan. History probably shows that no insurgency has ever been defeated while it retains a safe haven in a neighbouring country. I stand to be corrected on that, but I think that is a pretty big factor. While elements of the Pakistan Government, particularly, the ISI and the Pakistan Army, continue not just to tolerate the Taliban but actively to support Taliban operations into Afghanistan, there is not much chance of really getting fully on top of the Taliban in Afghanistan. So that is another area of focus. That is really the first issue.

  The second issue—and I will be briefer on these other two—relates to support for the campaign back here in the United Kingdom. That is absolutely fundamental. I am told by the Ministry of Defence that that support is not waning and that a substantial element of the British public support our operations in Afghanistan. Now I've not done any scientific analysis of this, but certainly from the people I speak to, that is far from the truth. The people in this country just don't understand why we are fighting there. They don't understand why we have body bags coming back through Wootton Bassett on a regular and frequent basis. I think that that must be explained much more convincingly to the British people in order to get their support. Frankly, to expect our Forces to carry on fighting there without that support is asking a hell of a lot because it has a big effect on their morale.

  I'll make just one point on that which, again, I'm happy to expand on. Something that people are always saying to me is, "Yes, we see British troops and British bodies being flown back in, but what damage are we doing to the Taliban?" There is a very big story to be told there without going down the route of the Vietnam body bag or kill count. We should be putting out more about the score that is taking place, not just our own losses but what we are doing to the Taliban.

  The final area that I would mention is support to our Forces in Afghanistan. Over recent years we have seen inadequate levels of support provided from the UK to the troops in Afghanistan. We've seen a significant improvement in that, particularly since the casualty rates started getting very high and the media started applying pressure on the Government to support their forces. We've seen improvement, and I hope it will continue.

  However, I am concerned about what I consider to be a peacetime attitude back here to supporting a war. These figures might be completely wild, but I think that in 1940 the British defence industry produced 900 Spitfires in one month, never mind the others. The Ocelot Armoured Vehicle, for example, sounds like a really great vehicle. It's a replacement for Snatch, and sounds really good from what I've seen. We are talking about perhaps delivering it some time in 2012. That's great if you're manufacturing family saloon cars, but we should gear up our war industry—our defence industry—to support our forces on a wartime footing, and not a peacetime one. So, let's quadruple the effort that we're putting into manufacturing the vehicles and get them out in a quarter of the time that we've got planned.

  Professor Farrell: I'd highlight four issues. The first issue is Afghan capacity, and that is something that people in the field and everyone agrees on. The major obstacle to progress is the capacity of Afghan Government institutions and Afghan Security Forces. That affects directly, for instance, their ability to absorb development assistance and other forms of assistance from us, and it is the critical factor that's going to shape our ability to transition districts and provinces in the coming couple of years. Within the national Government there are all sorts of problems, not least competition between key Ministries that are supposed to be co-ordinating co-operation, and also within the Afghan Security Forces. I shall make a couple of obvious observations. One is that there has been a huge increase in the forces. For instance, the Afghan National Army—ANA—now stands about 130,000 strong. That was the October target, and they hit it by the summer. So the growth is looking really good but, as you might appreciate, if you grow an army that quickly you can't grow the structures to sustain it as quickly. So, there is a sustainability problem as regards the Afghan National Army. With the Afghan National Police, the main effort this coming year for ISAF is the mentoring and partnering of the Afghan National Police and the Afghan Uniform Police, and that is a profoundly difficult problem. The level of public support for the Afghan National Police is chronically low. If you get the public to accept the police, let alone support them, that is a good thing, but in most districts they don't. So, that is the first issue.

  The second issue is corruption and criminal networks. This is now a major theme for ISAF under General Petraeus. Corruption has been referred to by the other speakers, both political corruption at the national, provincial and district levels, and economic corruption, which is endemic in that part of the world—Pakistan is full of it. There is an issue there about how much corruption we can accept and how much is normal for a functioning system, as opposed to how much is actually causing Afghanistan to grind to a halt economically and politically. Criminal networks will be the big theme for ISAF's new military plan. It was signed off two weeks ago, but I don't think it's been made public just yet. The big focus going forward is on criminal networks and the challenges that that is going to present in protecting the population.

  The third issue is international practices—our practices as international players in Afghanistan—and in particular the creation of parallel structures. When we go in as international community actors—NGOs and IGOs—we drain off a lot of the valuable human resource that should be in the Afghan Government; they come to work for us instead. Or, for instance, different donors require different reporting mechanisms, or they just bilaterally interact with Afghan Government agencies, and so what you get is a gross disunity of effort, and that is now a major problem. Ambassador Mark Sedwill was supposed to take a grip of this problem, but so far he has not really been able to do it, as far as I can see.

  Chair: I think that he has stopped being ambassador, hasn't he? I think it's now Sir William Patey.

  Professor Farrell: Has he stopped? He's no longer the senior civilian—

  Chair: Ambassador Mark Sedwill has now become the new Richard Holbrooke, as it were, or the new Sherard Cowper-Coles.

  Professor Farrell: As the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, obviously he's got a very full plate and he's achieving a lot—he's very impressive as the new SCR. But one of the areas that he has to focus on—and on which I'm sure he intends to focus—is more unity of effort on the civilian side. PRTs function differently, are structured differently and report differently. This is one of the areas that I looked at two weeks ago when I toured all the major regional commands in Afghanistan, and we discovered quite a degree of disunity of civilian effort.

  Lastly, obviously, there is the insurgency. The key thing to focus on in that regard is freedom of movement. The insurgency creates all sorts of problems, but ISAF must focus on getting more freedom of movement, particularly for Afghans, because that will free up the economy, and economic growth is really the centrepiece.


  Q68 Chair: Professor King, you had only one shot at that. Do you want to come back on that?

  Professor King: One thing I will qualify, in response to and building on what my colleagues have just said. When I talk about getting the politics right—this links into the issues of corruption—one error I would certainly identify in past attempts, which are now maturing, by the international community and NATO to stabilise Afghanistan is the vision of creating some centralised state that we, as western people who live under such structures, would recognise.

  I emphasise strongly that the regime we should realistically be looking at in Afghanistan is one that may not be particularly palatable to us in the West, namely, a patrimony, in which kin and tribal relations determine appointments and people use their offices of state as benefices. However, if the right people are appointed and take responsibility for their areas, there is nothing wrong with patrimonies. They can be stable. Most of the world operates on a patrimonial basis, including parts of Europe. That leads directly to Professor Farrell's point about corruption, which I agree with. We need to be very clear about what we mean by corruption and how that informs our planning and operations in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always been a patrimonial society, and the patrimony that has been established there is substantially a response to our interventions and to the 30-year war. There is a level of activity within the nascent political regime that is emerging that is certainly corrupt by our standards, but it is seen as legitimate and proper by Afghans. There is another form of corruption that is certainly not seen as legitimate by local Afghans, and which Professor Farrell rightly talked about, such as the political appropriation of certain kinds of offices and the appropriation of land. There are massive disputes and discontent about land ownership around Kandahar, where certain power brokers have just seized land by fiat.

  Of course, that leads to questions of economic corruption, and this is where we need to be extremely careful, namely in the area of narcotics. We immediately associate narcotics with corruption, and there is undoubtedly an association between the Taliban and the insurgency and the narcotics industry. It is part of the nexus of that insurgency. However, the figures that we were working on down in Regional Command South for this year show that about 80% of the GDP of the South is based on narcotics. It is not an illegal, corrupt form of economic activity, ultimately, at that level; it is just economic activity. The point is that corruption affects us as westerners very severely, and in some cases it distorts what we are trying to achieve there.

  I suggest that we try to create a plausible, stable patrimony in which certain kinds of activity, such as the expropriation of land or political and economic resources, are stopped, but where certain forms of typical patron-client relations continue, and where the drugs are perhaps not seen as an immediate problem of corruption, but as a problem of economic development. If we situate our understanding in such a way—those are the kinds of points that Colonel Kemp and Professor Farrell have also alluded to—we will be in a position to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of the Afghans.

  Chair: Thank you very much.

  Q69 John Glen: I have a question for Colonel Kemp. When you were in Afghanistan back in 2003, did you identify at the time key improvements that needed to be made and why they were needed? Could you tell us a bit about the situation you found then?

  Colonel Kemp: It was extremely different from what it is now. In 2003, British Forces were exclusively pretty much in Kabul and in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north. We had a Provincial Reconstruction Team up in the north. We had combat troops of about battalion strength in Afghanistan plus various logistic elements, staff and an RAF C130 Detachment. It was a much smaller scale operation than it is now and, apart from some special forces—counter-narcotics activity further south—we were not anywhere much south of Kabul.

  At that time, we were attempting to contain some forms of terrorist attack in Kabul. There were a number of suicide bomb attacks, and a number of IED attacks against ISAF in Kabul, but the attacks were relatively limited. It was a question of containing the situation rather than much else. At that time, in respect of the insurgency, we were seeking to increase our intelligence gathering and surveillance capacity, but when that is compared with the scale of operations that exist now, it is not particularly relevant to dwell on it.

  The other areas that we were working on quite heavily were disarmament and the reintegration of former—probably current now—warlords. We were working a lot on that, and training the Afghan National Army. It was the early days of training the Afghan National Army and Police, and we were involved in that activity as well. Again, that was on a very small scale compared with what is taking place now. Up in the north, there were relatively modest economic redevelopment efforts in the Provincial Reconstruction Team. So it would probably be wrong to try to draw—

  Q70 John Glen: Your experience is too short in time to draw any strong lessons, compared with what has happened since?

  Colonel Kemp: It is a relatively short time frame, and the situation was very different. At that time, the Americans in, I believe, Operation Enduring Freedom were quite heavily engaged in pursuing al-Qaeda and Taliban on the border areas, but we were not involved in that at all. At that time, there was virtually no significant Taliban activity throughout most of the country. It was a very different situation from what it is now.

  Q71 Mr Havard: Professor Farrell, you have done a report, which we have seen, on Operation Moshtarak. The Committee was in Helmand in January, just before it set off, and we had a brief about what was intended to happen and what the outcome was. Perhaps you could say something about what your report found, what you concluded from it and what its benefits might have been. Then I want to ask you a question about what conclusions you draw from it about future operations of a similar nature.

  Professor Farrell: The report was commissioned by Land Warfare, which asked me to go in and look at the major British operation in central Helmand, in Nad-e-Ali. The report you saw was the published version, but it is pretty close to the classified version—there is very little difference. All I have done is take out a couple of references that have operational security implications and hidden all the other references that refer to classified material.

  As you intimated, I reviewed extensively the plans leading up to Moshtarak. I reviewed the after-action reports—the post-operational reports and lessons—that were informing the British approach going into Moshtarak. I was able to interview troops and units when they came out, and then I went into theatre and interviewed 4 Brigade and the units going down into central Helmand and Nad-e-Ali.

  If anyone is going to be critical, it is usually the guys you hand the real estate over to. They can have quite pointed criticisms about what they find, in comparison with what units sometimes claim they left behind. However, broadly speaking, the story was actually a very good one. I am trying to summarise a very complex report in a few minutes, as you appreciate. The good news story, I suppose, was the very sophisticated approach that the British had developed and were taking to military operations.

  The approach combined a number of elements. The first and most important element that everyone recognised was what was called influence, engagement, messaging—essentially, it involves a series of activities. Broadly speaking, on the ground it was units pushing out in contested territory, beginning to engage with local communities and local tribal elders, and explaining what the operation was about, what was about to occur and what was involved. They explained why it would benefit them for the British and ANSF partners to push into the territory and push the Taliban out—getting them on board before pushing in. That is incredibly important.

  At the same time, there was lots of messaging back to Whitehall and Westminster to explain that this was not going to be Panchai Palang again. We are not going to see extensive fighting by conventional forces with the risk of heavy casualties to British Forces. They were hoping for a different kind of operation where the fighting would be minimal.

  That is what the British military would call a shaping operation. Combined with that was a secret operation involving the use of special forces in particular, to identify a target and either kill or capture local Taliban leaders. Something like 27 local Taliban leaders in Nad-e-Ali were killed or captured in the weeks and months leading up to Moshtarak. You essentially eviscerate the enemy's command structure locally and win over the local population. Then, when you push in, you've got all the cards stacked in your favour.

  The style of assault was a helicopter assault that was directly on top of two key Taliban strongholds. I cannot go into detail, but various classified reports showed that the Taliban defence essentially collapsed. It was not the case, as some Afghans on the ground thought, that the Taliban made an ordered retreat to defend their forces because they were facing overwhelming opponents. Rather, the defence literally collapsed in the field. That is because the Taliban command was remote at the time and stationed well out of the district. They have very poor situation awareness and the command net was quickly overwhelmed.

  Q72 Mr Havard: Did it collapse or did they just run away to fight another day somewhere else?

  Professor Farrell: That would be a definition of collapse. Then the consequence is what happens next. They were displaced across the Nar-e-Bughra canal into the desert, which was what we wanted to happen. We did not want to corral them and engage in big gun fights in a relatively heavily populated area of Nad-e-Ali. You want to push them into the desert—that is exactly what you want. You don't want a big gun battle.

  Q73 Mr Havard: My understanding was that it was also part of the broader idea of not just simply going in somewhere and capturing it, but that there was a follow-through from that. We saw some of the conditioning, shaping and pre-conditioning that you describe when we were there in January. What do you think and conclude about the operation that is currently under way around Kandahar, and about similar operations to try and influence other parts of the Southern Province?

  Professor Farrell: Okay. There are two parts to that and, if I may, I will take each part in turn. First, you are talking about the shaping, and then we go into the clear. The clear is the military phrase for when we push the enemy out of the territory. The hold is the critical thing. You go in and hold ground local security forces, and then you start to build. You have development activities happening quickly after you have cleared the Taliban out.

  At that point, we had been in Nad-e-Ali for almost a year and a half. It was a gradual expansion of local government authority across the district, protected by ISAF and ANSF—Afghan Security Forces. Moshtarak was a very small area in the Chah-e Anjir triangle, which is in the northern part of Nad-e-Ali. In a sense, we were building long-term commitment in Nad-e-Ali and gradual improvement. Crucially important was a very good district governor and a functioning district community council—the basis of local support.

  Post-operation, it all looks good. A very good survey was done of local opinion by Radio Nad-e-Ali, which showed very high levels of support and the identification of an improved security situation—the statistics are in my paper. When I visited the situation on the ground, I was there in October 2009, and it was quite unsafe. There was a bit of gunfire in the DC and we had to scuttle back to the FOB. I was there in June 2010 and what I found most impressive was going into the district governor's compound. Previously, you would go into what is basically his administrative centre, and you would find a lot of people hanging around and loitering. This time, you went in and you found people actually doing work.


  Q74 Mr Havard: Some of us met Governor Mangal yesterday and got an assessment from him on some of the effects on the ground in terms of the policing and justice system, and other things to do with security and the economy—the whole nine yards. You make a point about the community councils, and he talked about that and the reintegration committee and so on, so an elaborate structure of governance is now developing within that area. That had to come involved with the military force—that, presumably, is the conclusion that you are drawing, and that has to be the approach elsewhere. Is that right?

  Professor Farrell: What you probably appreciate is that last year Helmand was the main effort for ISAF. Regional Command South was identified as the main effort for Helmand. ISAF was concentrating resource to achieve a strategic effect in Helmand.

  Q75 Mr Havard: How much of that was the Afghan plan? How much do you think it was important that it was the Afghan plan, and that the Afghans were implementing something that they felt was theirs?

  Professor Farrell: At different levels, there were different degrees of Afghan ownership of the plan. There is a new strategic plan, as you probably know, where Kandahar is the main effort for this year. The strategic plan reality is that, of course, it is very much in co-operation with Afghan partners and the Afghan Government—it has to be—but it has been produced by ISAF. But if you look at Moshtarak, and way the planning proceeded on that, there is no doubt that Governor Mangal was very, very involved in the overall plan. Within Nad-e-Ali in particular, District Governor Habibullah was centrally involved in identifying what were the things to focus on in the plan. That is also clear in the main battle group that was involved in shaping, leading up to Moshtarak—the 1 Grenadier Guards. They are very clear on that point.

  Q76 Mr Havard: I want to ask you two questions. One thing that clearly came from the discussion we had yesterday with Governor Mangal is that he feels that he is trying to be a good part of the process of governance in Afghanistan, and he would like to remove certain people who are in certain key places, particularly in the police force, and has not got the capacity to do so. He will get there, doubtless, but not this week. That is now coupled with what you presumably are alluding to, which is ISAF's assessment and its new OPLAN—is that what we are talking about? You seemed to be suggesting at one level earlier that the Afghan Government were part of the problem, yet here is a description that the Afghan Government have to be put into place.

  Professor Farrell: There you go. That is the central problem. The central problem in this conflict is that the key is the Afghan Government's. We are supporting the Afghan Government and in the new plan that is increasingly emphasised. It can't be any other way. At the same time, there are capacity problems and, as Professor King has pointed out, political problems—corruption—that mean only so much can be expected of the Afghan Government. That is the essence of the problem.

  Q77 Mr Havard: Do you think, therefore, that we should be re-framing our approach to all of this, in terms of Afghanistan, and looking at it simply to create an expediency—that might have a moral relativism in it that I find a bit difficult—that would stabilise Pakistan, rather than Afghanistan? Is that what you are saying—that these operations are effectively to create a basic stability that has happened in that particular area, but no more than that?

  Professor Farrell: Just to clarify. The point of the major operation in Helmand—and appreciate, of course, that we also had the Marine push into Marjah and other areas—was to inflict a strategic defeat on the Taliban, and somehow gain momentum back into the campaign. That was the emphasis in ISAF. I was out there in January doing some strategic assessment for General McChrystal. That was very clear. By and large, there has been dramatic improvement in Helmand—Professor King can speak more to it. That now is the point in Kandahar—to inflict big defeats on the Taliban in the South. It goes back to the suggestion that maybe, given the political problems that we face at national level, there is only so much we can achieve and that maybe we should contain our ambitions in Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan. That seems a false choice to me. The strategy in Afghanistan seems quite reasonable. My own view is that we have probably about four years during which there will be reasonable resource committed to Afghanistan, and we are going to try to set the conditions as best as possible over the transition period, so when we eventually transition out, Afghanistan will hopefully survive in some shape that we can work with.

  Q78 Mr Havard: So do you feel that what happened there and your report of it has influenced and shaped in some way the revision by ISAF of this OPLAN, or whatever it is, about how to conduct future operations?

  Professor Farrell: No, because my report was to inform what the British were doing in central Helmand, which is only part of the pie, albeit a very important part.

  Q79 Mrs Moon: Part of the big change in the McChrystal plan, from my perspective, was to take military action in a form that recognised the needs and involvement of the local population. Suddenly, it was about fighting a war in which the local population was acknowledged as being part of the victims, but also part of the success. Has the situation changed since we moved to the McChrystal plan? Has there been any improvement? Has it been a helpful plan?

  Professor Farrell: I think you're absolutely right. I'm assuming that you're talking about population-centric COIN, as it's called, and the heavy emphasis in his plan on the need to protect the population as the main effort.

  What difference has it made? One of way of looking at that is civilian casualties, which is a really important indicator of the extent to which the population is being protected. The point of the McChrystal plan, in his strategic assessment, was to say, "It doesn't matter who's killing these folks and injuring them. It doesn't matter whether it's us or the Afghan Government forces or the Taliban. They are just being killed and injured. That is what matters for them." So, in order to stabilise the country and improve security, you must just get a grip on this issue.

  There was a major study done for General Petraeus by a team out of Harvard and US Joint Forces Command. It was based on very extensive field work, and what they have concluded is that—the study was reported to the Command about two months ago—if you look back over the last 18 months, the number of civilian casualties is in a steady state. It has not declined. However, over the last 18 months, what you find is that operational tempo has greatly increased with the massive surge of American forces into theatre. So when you actually normalise those numbers for the increase in operational tempo, what you get is a net reduction in civilian casualties.

  One of the key areas that General McChrystal was particularly focused on in his new—

  Q80 Mr Brazier: Sorry. Could you just say that last sentence again? What is the key factor?

  Professor Farrell: Yes. The number of civilians killed is pretty much steady, but that is against a background where military operations have greatly increased in tempo, because of the amount of forces that have come into theatre—massively increased. What you would expect is, obviously, an increase in civilian casualties in that context, so when you normalise the stability of civilian casualties in the context of the increase in operational tempo, you get a net reduction in civilian casualties. That is to say, civilian casualties, in real terms, have gone down.

  Q81 Mrs Moon: So although we've more troops, we're killing fewer people?

  Professor Farrell: Correct. And, crucially, killing fewer people through the use of air munitions. That is really important.

  There is still a problem with regard to what is called escalation of force, which is at the checkpoint and so forth. Just to give you a taste of the complexity of the issue, how about: if we have Afghan Security Forces operating alongside us at checkpoints, does that make matters better or worse? Well, it makes it better in some cases of escalation of force, because they are better able to read the situation and go, "That is not a threat. Don't use deadly force." But it makes the situation worse in other respects, because they have very poor fire discipline, and they are more inclined, when they use weapons, to use lethal force. It's a complex picture, but in terms of air munitions, the number of civilians killed by use of those has, in gross terms, gone down. That was a major priority for General McChrystal.

  Q82 Mrs Moon: Professor King, do you think that we've made any success in actually securing consent and engagement with the local population? Have we made a difference? Are they able to live a more normal life and start building an economy?

  Professor King: I think there has been some success. Mr Havard, I have inferred a certain line of argument from what you were saying that seemed to accord with your own question about McChrystal's strategy and this latest question. We now have probably the largest number of forces that we are going to have. The plan that is in place, in a military sense, is plausible. It is the optimal plan, given the forces that we have, in terms of the identification of districts and then the use of forces to try and generate force densities. On a military level, I think the plan is plausible and, indeed, Operations Moshtarak 1 and 2, which Mr Havard was talking about, were perhaps one of the first examples of that kind of counter-insurgency approach to try and generate force densities.

  Where I might take issue with it, and this is where I think I might agree with Mr Havard, is on this. The McChrystal plan—the whole US COIN concept—emerges out of a reinvention and rediscovery of post-war campaigns, Malaya etcetera. It was particularly used in Iraq, as we all know. What I worried about and what, to be honest, I still worry about, is that there is a bit of confusion of Afghanistan for Iraq. One of the key points here is that what we are using the forces to do is to secure the population; and I think it was implied today that that is what is being undertaken by military commanders. This, I think, is a complicated issue in Afghanistan. I say it slightly polemically, but in a certain sense there is no population in Afghanistan, in a general way. The social order is highly fragmented, partly historically—ethnically and tribally—but also because of 30 years of war. There's huge social fragmentation right down to the village and community levels, where nobody trusts anyone down the valley in the next village.

  Mrs Moon: Sounds like Wales.

  Professor King: What did and does concern me is the concept of securing population and providing benefits. In a more homogeneous society, the objective would be that those benefits would flow outwards horizontally, but I'm not sure that's the case in Afghanistan. I think that there's clear evidence that in many cases the intervention of the international community has actually generated fighting, because one community is favoured over another, and therefore the other community feels aggrieved and makes a localised, totally ad hoc alliance with certain Taliban commanders and fighters to generate a localised tribal insurgency that has no real strategic purposes, but ends up with rather large numbers of people, including ISAF troops, being killed. So I have a great scepticism about this population-centric COIN in Afghanistan.

  What's the other pole of population-centric COIN? It's the belief that what we are creating is a unified, centralised state. This comes back to Dai Havard's point: what was interesting about Moshtarak was that political engagement. We've got someone in Helmand—Governor Mangal—who seems to be a highly competent, able political agent in Afghanistan. Working with him, co-operating with him, using our own capabilities and capacities to support rather than just overwhelm him—that seems to be able to ensure that certain effects roll down this peculiar and complex political geography, especially in Southern Afghanistan.

  I suggest, if we look at the Operation—and Mr Havard mentioned it in terms of Operation Moshtarak 3, which is currently ongoing in the Arghandab Valley just outside Kandahar city—the most optimistic process there is Hamkari. Political engagement, identifying appropriate political leaders who are legitimate in Afghanistan—and not just legitimate, but capable—has been a key enabler for us to then utilise military force in a coherent way in this highly complicated environment.

  The answer to your question, on both points, is political engagement; but political engagement in the right way which shapes and prepares the ground in which conventional, even COIN, operations must take place. If Moshtarak 1, 2 and 3 don't work, nothing will, but I think there's evidence that they may indeed work, and it's this political engagement bit that's the key element of that process.

  Q83 John Glen: It seems to me that there's a bit of a conflict going on here, because you're trying to say at one level that if the nature of the improvements is sophisticated enough in terms of improving the political culture, and working with the right individuals, there is a state where less conflict between different communities will ensue, which will be a positive thing; but what you're therefore doing, surely, is making the mistake that you have almost suggested has been made across the board, of not understanding the diversity and the variance in maturity in political culture in Afghanistan. That will just be a short-term solution that you might achieve for a while—and you seem to say that it's happening now; but where's the evidence that that is going to be a sustainable future, if there is, in the near term, wide variance in economic experience? How are you going to wipe out that tendency to have conflict, just because you can identify a narrow political window where you've got some stability? It seems to be a bit of a fragile improvement that isn't going to be very lasting. Is that right?

  Professor King: Well, no, I think that your point is apposite, but there is a clear answer to it. Firstly, let me clarify that what we are talking about here. It is the stabilisation of a regime that must, for certain reasons of intervention and as a result of the decisions that we have taken, be Karzai-led—whether or not it is Karzai himself—within the elite power clan that is now dominating Afghan society. There must be a regime built around that on that basis. I agree with you: that certainly means there will be continuing low levels of violence in Afghan society. Even in the period 1920s to 1970s, the level of internecine violence between Afghan villages and tribal groups was more than we would tolerate in the United Kingdom. We are very lucky to have that level of violence. However, there is a key difference. We are facing a potential strategic insurgency. We are talking in the short term—five years. In the first instance, we are talking about creating a regime that is at least capable of suppressing the major grievances that give rise to an insurgency that may undermine the whole regime.

  The next point—this relates to a period of very long term that is well into our old age—is whether we can create a regime down in the South that is capable of generating social stability and economic development of the kind we saw in the 1950s and 1960s, where inter-communal violence is really quite low. I would hope so. We don't know, but I would hope so. The key thing is to focus on the fact that we are creating a plausible regime that is capable in the first instance of suppressing a strategic insurgency, not just for the good of Afghanistan but for regional stability right across to India and Iran. Your point is absolutely correct and I agree with you.

  Professor Farrell: May I just make one observation? We should not lose sight of provincial and district governance. As much as Professor King is absolutely right that we need to look at the national piece, a lot of the effort that goes into ISAF and the work that other international community partners are doing is directed towards building provincial and district governance. That is where the sustainability piece comes in. For instance, if you take a place like Helmand, you are working with the Provincial Governor. We have—the PRT has—an eight-man team directly in his office, building the capacity of provincial governance. It is not just Mangal, although he has a very impressive office backing him up. Down the districts, you are trying to fill the tashkeels of all the district governors and make sure there are decent district governors. One of the benefits of Moshtarak was that Mangal was able to get rid of a couple of lousy district governors—for example, in Musa Qala and Sangin—and replace them with decent people.

  What you want to try to achieve at a district level is governance that is able to deliver services for the people and that enjoys popular legitimacy. That is why the community councils are so important. Various programmes, such as the district delivery programme, are being advanced by agencies like the IDLG—the Independent Directorate of Local Governance—in Kabul. They are precisely designed to build district governance capacity and local democracy and support. That's what is going to be sustainable.

  Q84 Mrs Moon: Colonel Kemp, one of the things that Governor Mangal talked about yesterday was the links between corruption and the police, and corruption and the Afghan National Army. One of the questions I asked him was about how much ISAF and the US are funding that corruption, particularly in relation to funds for the Taliban through private security firms and the paying of bribes to get the convoys through to our Armed Forces and to our bases that provide the food and munitions—everything that is needed on the bases. Are we making it worse and making some of that stability and control almost impossible to achieve?

  Colonel Kemp: I can't speak in detail about what's happening there in given areas or whatever. But the first thing is that, from my reading of the situation on the ground in much of Afghanistan, particularly in the South, a very large amount of public resentment and opposition to the Government, ISAF and the Afghan Forces relates to the attitude of the Afghan police, particularly in getting people to pay bribes to allow them to do things. There is a general level of corruption, which supplements, to an extent, the fact that in some cases they are not being paid or have been paid very little themselves for their own policing services, which is another issue altogether. That is a pretty serious problem throughout much of the country.

  Part of the issue is using the Afghan Security Forces to support ISAF to get people onside, and to get them to provide intelligence and information. There is an increasing amount of information coming out of the local community, which is enabling ISAF to carry out precisely targeted operations against Taliban leaders and Taliban munitions manufacturers and so on. That desire to get information from the local people, which is fundamental to achieving success with the insurgency, is countered not only by killing civilians—and we have spoken about that—but by the kind of low-level corruption that I have alluded to, such as stopping making people pay to get through checkpoints and that kind of thing. I think that is a very serious issue.   

  In terms of security organisations or ISAF paying and in a way, funding this corrupt system, there's undoubtedly—particularly with the local private security firms—a level of pragmatism and expediency in achieving short-term objectives, but in doing that, they are fuelling elements of the insurgency as well. I have no doubt that the contribution you have suggested is occurring, from private security companies in particular, but it is with the best intentions and not intended to fuel the insurgency, even if it is perhaps indirectly doing that. I can't be more specific or precise but I do believe that to be the case.

  Q85 Mrs Moon: You talked about the importance of getting public opinion onside. Do you think the Taliban are winning the information war, both in Afghanistan and in the UK? If so, what can we do about it? What needs to change and how can we counter that?

  Colonel Kemp: There are two very different targets for public opinion in the UK and in Afghanistan. To give one example of this, I can understand why President Obama said that he would begin withdrawing American forces in 2011 and why our Prime Minister said he would expect to get all British Forces out within five years. I can fully understand the reason behind saying that, but I think it sends completely the wrong message to the people in Afghanistan. Only if it were accompanied by qualifying statements, such as, "We will start withdrawing in 2011 if we've achieved certain objectives" or, "We will have British combat troops out of Afghanistan in five years, only if we have achieved certain objectives", it would get the message clear to the people in Afghanistan that we are committed to staying with them, protecting them from the Taliban, and supporting them in the long-term. That's more important than the harm that that kind of message does to the Taliban. The Taliban become encouraged by that kind of action, but I think that is less damaging, because the Taliban are going to fight anyway. It is less damaging, I think, than discouraging the local people from supporting us is.

  Aside from all the other aspects, from a military perspective the level of co-operation, intelligence and information provided by the local people to ISAF and the Afghan Forces is so critically important. That is directly influenced by whether or not they think that in five years' time we will leave and the Taliban will be back in with a whip hand. A different message is needed over here in the UK. I would go back to the point I made earlier; I can understand why people in the UK want to know that this is not an open-ended commitment in which we are going to be for ever sending our forces out to Afghanistan, paying a huge cost in blood as well as money, and bringing them back in body bags. I think that we need to know that. So many different stories have been told to the British public about why we are in Afghanistan and those who follow the situation understand it and don't need to be convinced, because they know. But I don't think that the majority of people in this country have a clue why we are fighting in Afghanistan, and I think that needs to be addressed more strongly.

  I don't think that most people in this country believe that opening a school or an irrigation project, which can be used for both wheat and poppy, is worth a British soldier coming back with one limb out of four. I don't think they equate those things. I think that what people can understand is the need to protect this country and the people in the western world from Islamist extremism, which would otherwise raise its head again in Afghanistan. I think they can understand why you would be prepared to take British casualties for that, but what they don't understand is why it is one way.

  I like to equate it to a football game. Britain play Germany at football and the Germans score three goals. The Britons then go shopping in Hamburg after the match and boost the local German economy, but they don't mention how many goals we scored, so they don't know the true score; they only know that we had a lot of goals scored against us. That is what is happening in Afghanistan. Admittedly, it is slightly less of a problem now, because the casualty rate seems to have come down, but the British people are, I think, very dispirited by hearing constant stories about British casualties and deaths. What they don't hear is how many casualties are being inflicted upon the Taliban, what damage is being done to the Taliban, and what gains are being made in military terms. Moreover, in that same context, you talk about the propaganda or information war being won by the Taliban, but we don't hear enough about the atrocities that the Taliban are committing. You obviously know a lot about that, but the public don't hear about the real evils that the Taliban are committing in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  Q86 Chair: Colonel Kemp, I am uncomfortable with your implication that we should say, "Wahey, we have killed 400 Afghans," particularly if they are young people who are not diehards, but who have been recruited either for money or because their father was a Taliban diehard who was killed. I understand the value of saying that we have achieved certain strategic objectives, but not of saying that our body bag count is bigger than theirs. We produced a report in the past saying that it would be a bad idea to have lots of body bag counts. Are you really going to stick to that?

  Colonel Kemp: I am. I wouldn't want to glory in anybody's death. I don't think we should do that, but we are fighting a war against people who are trying to kill our soldiers. The young people in the Taliban in Afghanistan are no less our enemy than the young German soldiers who fought for their own country against us were in the Second World War. We weren't shy about discussing the successes we had against that enemy, as well as the successes that they had against us. I don't understand the sensitivity. I don't believe that we should be glorying in it, but I do think that we should give the people in this country some indication of the success we are having against what is not an army but, for want of a better word, an army that is fighting us in the field.

  Chair: May I just say from my own point of view that I don't think it would make the British people feel better about what we are doing.

  Professor Farrell: May I make three observations? First, on the body count issue, in terms of ISAF, the view is unequivocal—do not do body counts. They are not helpful to the campaign. One of the primary reasons why they are not helpful is because they get soldiers focusing on the wrong thing. You are not in the field to kill the enemy, but to create security for the local population. That is why no one really uses body counts in the COIN campaign.

  To pick up two other points, on corruption, which was correctly raised, and our contracting practice, as you probably know there's a counter-corruption Task Force within ISAF that General Petraeus set up. As you probably know, it is being led by Brigadier H. R. McMaster, who is widely considered one of the most brilliant American practitioners of COIN, so it is very impressive. That he is the man who is leading the effort gives you some indication of how important the Task Force is. As you probably know, General Petraeus has issued commanders with guidance on contracting, which is available on the ISAF web. They know that corruption involves what the Afghan Government do and what we do. Right now, we can chip away at the problem in what we do and we need to work with our Afghan partners on the other thing.

  Colonel Kemp is right: part of the problem that we have with the July draw-down of American Forces, the withdrawal of the Dutch, the Canadians and the statements from the Prime Minister is that the picture of Afghans is that we're leaving in a matter of years. I totally agree with Colonel Kemp, the real problem is not that that will embolden the Taliban—they don't need that to be emboldened—but that it causes local Afghans to say, "Well, why should we back our Government, who rely on ISAF, rather than the Taliban?" Those are Afghans in the South and the East. There is no easy solution, but there are efforts to do something about it. We will see all sorts of statements to mediate on the July draw-down. I don't know how successful they will be. NATO is due to release its new strategic concept at Lisbon in a week or so, and at the heart of that will be a new long-term strategic relationship with Afghanistan. That is clearly an attempt to demonstrate—almost like the deal with the new member states of eastern and central Europe—long-term partnership.

  Chair: We may come back to the leaving thing. Personally, I entirely agree with what you've both said on that point.

  Q87 Mrs Moon: Could I ask a very quick question? Is part of the problem that we in this country conflate Afghanistan and Helmand? There are areas where there is huge positive news of success and what can be achieved that we could be getting out. Instead, the public's impression of the whole of Afghanistan is almost like saying the whole of the UK is Cornwall, and everything that happens in Cornwall is happening elsewhere. Should there be more of a balance, with news of some of the successes and of stability, security and improvements in other areas of Afghanistan? Would that help?

  Professor King: Yes. To pick up the point on strategic communications, I completely agree with Professor Farrell and Colonel Kemp. We failed completely. It is about precisely what you said, Mrs Moon, about Helmand. You cannot understand the campaign as a whole through the prism of Helmand. In the campaign in the South, it is an important but supporting area for Kandahar city. We might brutally say that if the operations and the political engagement around Kandahar city are successful over the next 18 months, not only would the campaign have been potentially all but won and we would have made a huge step and Helmand would be but a small supporting part. If we told that story to the British public, I think that they would then understand how the losses we have suffered make sense and fit in, and that, despite the fact that they are complete tragedies for every family who has lost a soldier, there is a strategic point to them.

  If I may qualify that, I wouldn't emphasise the counter-terrorism element in any way. It is not a credible or empirically-based claim about what we're doing. There is good evidence that, in fact, our presence in Afghanistan radicalises certain young men in this country and elsewhere. I would suggest that the argument is that we are on a stabilisation mission that has regional political importance, in support of our major ally, the US. That seems to me to be something that we were doing in the Cold War and, presumably, something that we will do after Afghanistan. I think that the British public would understand and value such a mission. For me, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism are subordinate and potentially beneficial sub-effects of that stabilisation campaign, of which Helmand is a small but significant part, which, I hope, our Armed Forces will be proud that they have done.

  Chair: Colonel Kemp, it is past 3.34, so past your witching-hour.

  Colonel Kemp: It's past my bed time.

  Q88 Chair: Thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence. It has been most helpful and very interesting.

  I want to move on, if I may, Professor Farrell, to something that you, Professor King, have written, which is that "the British have consistently dispersed their kinetic effects over time and space so that they never achieve the lasting dominance over any particular area necessary to neutralize Taliban influence there." You go on to set out how that works. Why on earth have we done that?

  Professor King: It will not surprise you that I am going to say that it's complicated, but let me just put in one really important qualifying statement. That article takes into account Panchai Palang. However, over the past 18 months to two years—I would say from December 2008—there has been an attempt to concentrate forces in Helmand, and we now have a concentration of forces in Helmand.

  Q89 Chair: Because of the surge?

  Professor King: Yes, a surge and a redistribution of forces with the US Marines coming in. That article was intended to analyse the period from 2006 through to December 2008, and possibly through to the end of 2009.

  Why did it happen? I would suggest three key factors: a lack of resources, a lack of campaign analysis about how to use and prioritise those resources. Anyone familiar with the British military would recognise that one of its great qualities is its highly active desire to get things done—an initiative-seizing ethos that I think is one of the most powerful parts of the British Force. But within Helmand and that very complicated political and social environment—and, indeed, potentially highly hostile environment—those traditional strengths of British commanders and British Forces led us to be over-ambitious. The feeling that we could almost do anything encouraged commanders to exceed the capacities of their forces and to disperse their forces in the hope of achieving good effects, but unfortunately, ultimately, just generating a series of very severe tactical fights, which in many cases did not really add up to much and, in some cases, actually put us behind politically.

  Q90 Chair: And destabilised the local population.

  Professor King: Correct.

  Q91 Chair: To whom would you attribute the lack of analysis, which was your second point?

  Professor King: That is a nasty question to be asked. There was a plan in 2005. There was also a special forces plan in 2005, which seemed to outline the situation in Helmand extremely well. Now, somewhere in the machinations of the MoD, the services and PJHQ the at least completely workable—I might say very good, or at least adequate—understanding of what was going on down there at that point somehow got lost in the procedure. One factor may have been the very complicated command relations that developed in early 2006. The British Helmand Task Force went in; there was a chain of command going back to PJHQ; there was a Task Force that had a different commander than the brigade commander that it was nominally under—that brigade commander was, however, COMBRIT force, so had some sort of authority over it. We had NATO Command Structure coming down with a Canadian Brigadier in Kandahar who was seen as weak—I am not saying he was weak, but he was seen as weak—and therefore could not exert authority and coherence on what was going on in Helmand, even though there was a very important campaign that was run in August around Kandahar city at that point.

  The intelligence was there. It was not a failure of intelligence gathering or understanding—there was an understanding. It was a failure in this complicated operational architecture to enforce and discipline decisions in relation to that extant intelligence.

  Professor Farrell: I agree with Professor King. This just adds an extra layer of explanation as to what happened. As you probably appreciate, everyone understood the plan, which was to focus on the key economic area of Gereshk and the key political area of Lashkar Gar. We were going to focus on that area in central Helmand. When the British got into Helmand, Governor Daoud very quickly requested support from British forces deployed northwards, because he felt that the towns of NawZad, Sangin and Musa Qala were under threat from the Taliban. So part of the problem facing the British commanders on the ground was that they had to support Governor Daoud, because he was our governor—we replaced SMA at the request of the British Government, so we couldn't leave that guy in the lurch.

  There was very heavy political pressure on military commanders on the ground to support the Afghans, and there is nothing new here. That exact problem is being faced, for instance, by the Italians in RC West. Their instruction is to focus on Highway 1 going from north to south near Herat, but the Afghans want them to focus on Highway 2, which goes from west to east. So you are trying to work and support the local Afghan Government and your Afghan partners, yet they might be running contrary to your superior orders.

  Q92 Mr Havard: We have asked questions about that before, and there has been some descriptive evidence in the past about some of that probably being the case. You both seem to be saying something about the Command Structure, though, and you have both looked at this. What are your observations, then, about what the Command Structure should look like going forward and the force mix that goes with it? That force mix is very different, now that we have learned some of those lessons. We now know the tribes better than we did before. When 16 Air Assault Brigade first went in we stumbled into something that we didn't understand. We've gone through all of that, so what are your observations about what the force Command Structure should look like if there is to be this NATO transformation of its plans, and all the rest of it, over the next couple of weeks?

  Professor Farrell: I focused on exactly that at the operational level in the study that I did two weeks ago for General Rodriguez.

  Q93 Mr Havard: Give us a clue.

  Professor Farrell: On the effectiveness of the current Command Structure. As you know, the campaign is run from a three-star headquarters—ISAF Joint Command—and below that there are six Regional Commands: North, South, South-West, East, West and Centre. When I interviewed the senior staff at each regional command, I asked whether they have a sense that there is direction at an operation level across the entirety of Afghanistan. I also asked the people who had been there before IJC was stood up whether they had seen any improvement. There is no question about that: there is no question that they see the proper, directional command that they expect. That comes down into RC South.

  The point of my paper and of my previous study, "Appraising Moshtarak", was that we tend to lose sight of the fact that we deployed a proper divisional headquarters for 6 Division in RC South. RC South was then the centre of the whole campaign, it was the main effort. We had, for the first time, a proper divisional headquarters running the campaign. There is clear evidence, which Professor King can talk about, because he has been embedded in RC South for quite a period of time, of command leadership going down into Task Forces. So you invariably had tension between the Marine Task Forces and Task Force Helmand, the British Task Force, over who would do what and who would get which resources. For the first time, instead of the Task Force commanders sorting that out between them, you would have General Nick Carter, who was the superior commander, coming down to say, "No, that is what's going to happen." You see the exact same thing now. The main effort in RC South is in Kandahar, and they don't have the resources to take care of Maiwand, which is a key district in securing Highway 1. Maiwand has been given to RC South-West and the Marines aren't happy, because they don't want it, but that's their order from superior command. So we now have a Command Structure in place that works.

  Q94 Mr Havard: Does that reconcile some of the other things? I want to get to the point about force mix. I want to know the way in which the Marines work, their Command Structure—all sorts of different things—how they relate to aspects of the PRT and all the component elements that are not directly under the military command, but are under the military influence and which influence the military's behaviour and its capacity to do things. What are you saying about the Command Structure's dealing with the complexity of a new mix of forces—forces beyond those just in uniform?

  Professor King: There are two implied questions there, and I would like to go back to the previous one. I think what Professor Farrell said would be my reply at one level. There was an incoherence, a lack of power, in the centralised NATO command from 2006 to 2009. The centralisation of power into the regional commands has been extremely important. For a clear example of that, compare Operation Panther's Claw last summer with Operation Moshtarak. One of the difficulties that came out of the lessons learned was that they just did not have the right resourcing and sequencing, which Moshtarak had.

  The British Forces in Helmand now are under US Marine command, and you are asking very specific questions—just to confirm—in terms of those relations. My understanding of the US Marine Corps at this point is that they assist and provide additional, especially military, resources. Overwhelmingly, the Helmand in this Lashkar Gar area is operating in accordance with the overarching campaign plan that really General Carter developed, and predominantly autonomously. From talking to people in RC South, the resources that they have at the moment seem adequate for what they are doing at this moment, but what they will need in the future is an interesting question.[1]

  Q95 Chair: Before we get on to that, the Marines don't traditionally operate with anybody else, do they?   

  Professor King: No.

  Q96 Chair: And they don't really like operating with anybody else, do they?   

  Professor King: Perhaps.

  Q97 Chair: How do they get on operating with, for example, Governor Mangal?

  Professor King: Theo would know the answer much better than I do.

  Professor Farrell: The situation has got slightly more complex in RC South-West because a new regional platform has been stood up—an American senior civilian representative—so he will bring capacity and funding with him. You now have on the civilian side, for instance, three big players. You have the stabilisation team within RC South-West, and they have a very large civil affairs side. The Marines tend to have very large civil affairs teams; these are military teams. You have the regional platform, who is the new SCR, and you have the PRT.

  The problem is that the SCR is co-located with the headquarters of RC South-West in Leatherneck, which is next to Bastion, whereas the PRT is located down in Lashkar Gar, co-located with Governor Mangal and the Provincial Government. That distance is a real issue; there is no question about that. Compounding that, of course, is the very close proximity between the PRT and Task Force Helmand. Task Force Helmand, for instance, has its planning cell located in the heart of the PRT—you will know that already.

  Look at this from the Marines' point of view. They see a PRT that is very cosy with Task Force Helmand and is very cosy with Governor Mangal, and yet the Marines are supposed to be running the whole show. As far as the US military are concerned PRTs fall under military command, because that is what happens with American PRTs. As far as the PRT is concerned, it is the superior actor in the Helmand area for non-military operations. There is an issue there that, as far as I am aware, has not yet been resolved, but may be resolved through creative management by the key players.

  Q98 Mr Havard: "Creative management by the key players." That is an interesting phrase. What place is the PRT in?

  Professor Farrell: The new head of the PRT is an opportunity for a fresh start, a new regional platform, and of course in due course we are going to have a new head commander of RC South-West. But the current one is very good. These are good guys.

  Q99 Mr Havard: How do you see that fitting with the development of the capacity of the Afghans to deploy and deliver to Governor Mangal, and their arrangements?

  Professor Farrell: Everything is in place anyway. The PRT has done sterling work, particularly over the past year and a half to two years. The Provincial Government is very well developed and staffed. It is a whole different ball game in Kandahar, where they have had real problems trying to fill the Kandahar Provincial Government, but the Helmand Provincial Government is looking very strong.

  Q100 Chair: What you are describing is a completely dysfunctional relationship.

  Professor Farrell: What I am describing—this was one of the points that came out of my report to General Rodriguez, but it is not news—is that there is a continual problem with regard to unity of effort on the civilian side. ISAF has yet to figure out how to resolve it, not least because the UN agencies in theatre are weak for a variety of reasons—we all know of the problems at UNAMA—and there are multiple civilian agencies, many of which respond to national Governments. Helmand PRT responds most closely to Whitehall, but you have a similar problem with the two German PRTs at RC North: the civilian side does not fall under the command of the German commander of RC North, which he finds very irritating as far as I can see. He controls the battlegroups that guard them, but he does not control the PRTs. All over Afghanistan there is an issue of disunity of effort on the civilian side.

  Q101 Mrs Moon: Is there not also an issue of people fighting their own private wars? By the sound of what you're saying, the Marines aren't co-ordinating with the civilian governor and they're not co-ordinating with the PRTs. At the beginning, we had a very clear picture of the priorities that we had and the building up of governance. Is what the Marines are doing not counterintuitive?

  Professor Farrell: Sorry, it's important that I clarify this. I am not saying for a second that the Marines don't co-ordinate with the governor—General Mills, the commander of Regional Command South-West, is frequently down in Lashkar Gah—and I'm not saying there isn't good co-ordination by the principals. Absolutely not; I want to be clear on this. Also, I should point out that the military plan has military tactical priorities and also development and governance priorities for each of the Regional Commands to implement. There is the potential for unity of effort there; it's just that there could be better unity of effort between the military and civilian sides, the American and the British. But that's to be expected.

  The Americans have ripped 20,000 troops into Helmand, bringing massive resource, and they expect things to happen fast, whereas the British PRT has been operating there for a number of years, and their basic posture is to go more slowly, because they know, I think correctly, that that's how you'll get sustainable growth of governance and development.

  Q102 Mr Havard: So out of the Strategic Concept, or whatever this meeting is with NATO in a week's time—

  Professor Farrell: The Strategic Concept.

  Mr Havard —and this mysterious OPLAN that they're revising in ISAF, how do these things knit together? What do you see coming out of that thing that will change this Command Structure to make all of that coherent, if it is a support transition plan for the future? What does that Command Structure need to look like that it doesn't do now?

  Professor Farrell: I don't think there needs to be any change in the military side of the Command Structure. Effort now needs to be put into coming up with a functioning civilian Command Structure. This is an issue that, for instance, Mark Sedwill was very alive to. It was one of the areas that I think he was going to focus on as NATO SCR.

  Professor King: Can I just say one thing about the US Marine Corps? First of all, a number of British officers are working in that headquarters. My understanding is that they—as is very frequent with British officers selected to work in American headquarters—are having huge influence. They are extremely capable officers. I think that the fears that this Committee has—I think that we would need to be careful about the evidence.

  The other point to make, of course, is that the US Marine Corps' area of operations is Regional Command South-West, and we need to be careful about the Helmand myopia issue. The bit of Helmand that we are in is a very small part of the area out to Farah that they are involved in. As Professor Farrell says, to make presumptions on the basis of certain little bits of evidence might be premature.

  Chair: That is fair enough. We have to do an inquiry into what British troops are doing. We will change subjects slightly to civilian casualties.

  Q103 Penny Mordaunt: We touched on civilian casualties. Professor Farrell talked about the numbers of civilian casualties and the impact that that might have on successful operations. If I've understood you correctly, the adoption of the McChrystal strategy by ISAF Forces had in part the result of reducing the civilian casualties caused by those Forces. I'd like to ask Professor King if he agrees with that assessment. What is your assessment of the impact of civilian casualties on successful operations? Professor Farrell, can you say something about the relationship between those reductions in casualties caused by ISAF Forces and the number of casualties of those Forces?

  Professor King: First, I broadly agree with Professor Farrell's point. Certainly there's been an emphasis on reducing civilian casualties, which has been broadly successful, especially with conventional forces. I think we would want to distinguish between conventional forces and special forces; there have been numerous, quite shaking incidents with special forces involving civilian casualties. I would say that at conventional force level, there have been tragic incidents, but there's an attempt to control them. I think that might be worth some attention. However, a lot of discussion about civilian casualties stays at that level—the civilian casualties that our forces perpetrate in Afghanistan—but there seem to be at least two other types of civilian casualty that we need to think about very carefully.

  The first is the civilian casualties caused by the Taliban, and there are two issues in that. One is, as Colonel Kemp said earlier, I don't think that we clarify the nature of the insurgency that we are confronting there. For instance, a boy of seven was hanged in Sangin in June this year for supposedly collaborating with British Forces up there; and there are frequent reports of children placing IEDs and being killed or severely wounded, or losing an arm, as a result. That raises not only strategic communications issues but whether we are indirectly endangering populations by not securing them and protecting them from Taliban intimidation. I think that that is an important point to raise.

  However, there is a third type of civilian casualty—at least, I would call them civilian casualties. There is a presumption that what we are facing is a unified insurgency. There are certainly committed Taliban fighters and commanders working in Southern Afghanistan, and intelligence agencies have extremely good intelligence on them. But, overwhelmingly, many of the fights that NATO troops get involved in and that the Afghan National Police and Army get involved in are against militias.

  People who are under the rules of engagement because they fire on our troops or on the Afghans are then subject to counter strike by our forces. In many cases, we kill huge numbers of these people. I suggest to you that in many cases these people are not insurgents; they could be considered civilians in a normal Afghan way. We know that in Afghan society all men basically carry weapons, and that local militias are necessary for self-defence. I suggest that we could well do with using the concept of civilian casualty and broadening it to make a more refined assessment of the insurgency.

  That comes back to Colonel Kemp's point about these unfortunate terms "kill counts" or "body counts". It is quite disturbing, the number of people we have killed, potentially legitimately under the rules of engagement, but whom we didn't need to kill and whom we should not have been fighting, and whom, with better political awareness, we would not have needed to fight and kill. I would include all those three groups within any systematic analysis of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. In so far as we address those issues in a comprehensive way, we might be in a position to move the campaign forward.

  Professor Farrell: There are three points; I'll address them in turn. The first is to come back to the issue of what we actually know.

  From this report that I mentioned, that was previously produced, the data being drawn upon was the data that ISAF generates through its civilian casualties assessment process. There is probably good reason to feel that we don't entirely know how much confidence we can have in it. First, it is a very complex environment and it is very difficult to gather data in volume like that; secondly, there are certain organisational biases that might lead to under-reporting, and the WikiLeaks business has highlighted that. It is possible that the civilian casualties might be higher. In this particular report, the statistical evidence was correlated with extensive interviews at all levels of command, to gather the overall picture. It is about as good as you can get.

  There is the interesting question of how the McChrystal strategy worked. The way the commander does this is to issue tactical guidance to all subordinate commands, and that gets sent right down to the lowest trooper, and it is translated into rules of engagement and so forth. The interesting thing is that McChrystal's tactical guidance was not that much stricter in terms of controlling civilian casualties than that of the previous commanders, McKiernan and McNeil. The difference was the whole philosophy under McChrystal. He brought in a new command philosophy: "Look, this is the big problem. We're going to focus on this." That new command philosophy enthused the entire command, right down to the COIN units in the field, and produced fewer civilian casualties. Yes, combined with certain strictures on the use of ammunitions, that made a difference.

  You are quite right that the issue now is force protection. One of the areas for which McChrystal was criticised by some troops was that with such an emphasis on civilian casualties, it exposed them to more risk. There is no doubt that there was very enthusiastic embracement of the McChrystal approach, for example by the brigadier of 4 Brigade, Richard Felton, who felt that civilian casualties were a critical issue in Helmand; I think that he was entirely right. He instituted very strict rules of engagement, which actually made it very difficult for British Forces to engage, unless of course they had to do so in self-defence. However, the primary risk to troops comes from IEDs so that is not really an issue of use of force. So it's not an issue in terms of the main threat to our troops.

  ISAF is not taking its foot off the pedal, as it were. It is not the case that it is using less force, due to the restrictions that were imposed to reduce civilian casualties. It is just using force more precisely and more discriminately. What you have seen under ISAF is a very extensive increase under General McChrystal in the use of special forces, to the extent now that in the last three months SF in the Afghan-wide theatre have operated at around four times the tempo that they were operating at in Lambar and Ramadi in 2004-05. There has been very extensive and heavy use of SF to carry out precision strikes against targets.

  Does that raise issues of civilian casualties? It certainly does and it perhaps comes back to Professor King's point. The hope is obviously that, with a much more discriminatory operation, in which ideally you capture rather than kill insurgent leaders, you lower the risk of civilian casualties compared to bigger-unit activity.

  Chair: Okay. Thank you very much.

  Q104 Mr Brazier: Did the UK and ISAF Forces have the necessary intelligence when we went into Helmand in 2006 and what do you see as the position now? Actually, I will give you the second half of my question too. Colonel Kemp is no longer with us, but both of you may have seen that there was a very widely reviewed paper that came out last month from General Lamb and Colonel Richard Williams. Professor Farrell, you have been saying quite a lot about special forces. The paper said that the critical problem was communications bandwidth and the fact that very often we had the right real-time intelligence coming in, but it was no use to our soldiers because we did not have the bandwidth to get the intelligence down to the level that it was needed at quickly enough. Do you have any views on that?

  Shall we start with Professor Farrell, as you were talking about special forces, and then come to you, Professor King, if we may?

  Professor Farrell: Okay. I guess the big caveat is that it is very hard to get any information on anything to do with intelligence. I would not be able to show you any information that I had on intelligence, because I don't know whether it is classified or not, or I don't know if what I would be revealing would be breaching classification. It's extremely hard to give the answer, but I will try my best.

  Essentially, did we know enough going into Helmand in 2006? Almost certainly not. Did we do due diligence in sending advance teams to scout the area and develop a reasonable plan with Afghan partners on the ground? Yes, I think that we probably did, actually. Did we know that the Taliban would present us with organised resistance and therefore that we had to go in with a larger force than we originally expected to use? I think that the answer is yes.

  The American Provincial Reconstruction Team was guarded by about 250 troops. The MoD decided that it had to control the risk of that operation. Therefore it was decided to deploy 3,100 British troops to support the deployment. There was an appreciation that there would be a higher-threat environment and therefore that we would have more troops than the Americans had had previously.

  However, what no one anticipated—not only ourselves, but the Canadians in Kandahar and our Danish partners in theatre—was the extent and scale of the Taliban resistance that they were able to present in the field. That could be a product of intelligence failure. I would suggest that probably, on balance, it was, because if we had had better intelligence we would have put more troops in, or we would not have gone into Helmand in the first place. However, that is speculation on my part.

  As for what the situation is now—

  Q105 Chair: Before you get off that subject, do you think that if we had had a smaller number of troops we would have faced less resistance?

  Professor Farrell: No. That is really a very good question, actually, because it goes to a major thesis that, for example, David Kilcullen holds in his widely cited and very good book, "The Accidental Guerrilla": sometimes we generate insurgencies because we push into areas and then the people in those areas come out and present an organised resistance. Of course, that does not only involve foreign fighters and Taliban but, as Professor King points out, local people who come out and take pot shots or who are annoyed with you.

  It is true that there are parts of Afghanistan that we have not pushed into and right now they are very permissive, because we are not there. Ghor is almost the size of Helmand in west central Afghanistan and we are not there. The Lithuanians have PRT; there are no ISAF troops. We haven't got a clue what is going on in Ghor. Right now, it's pretty permissive. If we pushed in in force, would we encounter resistance? Possibly. The evidence seems to be that the insurgents were reforming in the South from 2005 onwards. Therefore, the alternative to not pushing in in force would have been to give them the south. If we had put in a smaller unit, we would have the situation that we had in Sangin or NawZad, but around Lashkar Gah. It would have been simply untenable.

  You were absolutely right on the situation today. It is about a technical issue that has to do with network capability and the ability to move information around. There are two problems. One is the actual ability to move information around in a timely fashion. The other is the ability to exploit that information. Part of the problem is that there is too much information and we don't have the human capacity to exploit it. Basically, the commanders are overwhelmed with information. So, there is that issue, but there is also the issue of whether the guys on the ground can get the information fast enough. It is a real problem for biometrics. You gather data on an individual. When you stop someone in the street, in Nad-e-Ali for instance, you go on the net and ask the question, "What do we have on this person?" It takes longer for them to come back and give you a response. I cannot give you that information because it is classified, but it takes longer than they would want. As you may know, there is a programme that is urgently seeking to address this problem. As I understand it, the new capability will be rolled out, if not this year, early next year.

  Q106 Mr Brazier: Forgive me, Professor King, we will go into detail, and then we will bring you in. I was rather intrigued when the article reviewing this particular paper appeared in The Times. At the time, I happened to have in my constituency a firm called Amphenol, which makes the low-tech bits of most of the high-tech equipment in a whole range of areas. It is the world-leading supplier of the hardened connecters that are used in signalling equipment for everything from avionics to army wirelesses. The immediate comment I got from Amphenol was, "This is absolutely right. It was perfectly obvious to us that our signalling equipment didn't have anything like enough bandwidth to cope with the information age."

  You mentioned the example of the biometrics, but the most vivid example was quoted by the guys in a presentation I heard. They said, "An American soldier is only 40% as likely to become a casualty on patrol as a British soldier." They said one of the most important factors in that—you can't comment in detail on intelligence—was the real-time information coming in. That goes back to your point about information overload and so on. The ability of the American systems to get the information coming in from, say, UAVs, or a whole range of different sources immediately down to the guys on the ground who need it, is a very long way ahead of us, they say, and not terribly expensively so either. Basically, we are a generation or two behind them. Do you have any views on that? I know that it's a bit of a techie question.

  Professor Farrell: I do. The standard military response when it comes to a civilian contractor saying that they can deliver a capability faster and cheaper is that the operation environment is more demanding and will require higher-end capability than they can really understand. It is possible that's partly in play here. There is also the cumbersome MoD acquisition even under the UORs. Also, at the same time, they are trying to integrate the Bowman system. Multiple factors are in play.

  On the US versus the UK, the general view, on which you are absolutely right, is that the US has more organic ISTAR capability and brings it more into play. Units have more ISTAR at Task Force level. We are talking about all these UAVs, full-motion video and so on. There is an issue about not only gathering full-motion video, but pushing that imagery around theatre—the operational environment. Against that, I offer two caveats. The first caveat is that technology doesn't improve your situation awareness but can make it worse. What you are trying to do is get a proper appreciation of what is called the human environment, and that involves talking to people. The more time you spend in front of a TV console looking at full-motion video, the less time you are spending directing your commanders, or yourself, out on the ground having cups of tea.

  Just to make a serious point, it can sometimes be the case that senior commanders looking at full-motion video think they know what is going on. They can then try and direct, through the long-handled screwdriver, a situation on the ground.

  Technology does have consequences, so you have to be aware of that. That said, the general view tends to be that you can't have too much ISTAR, and it has to be said that for the big operations the British have been involved in, such as Moshtarak, because it was main effort, they had more ISTAR than you could practically use—the place was flooded with ISTAR.

  The situation isn't as stark, perhaps, as you present, although there is a general view that, yes, the Americans have more. That is the caveat I mentioned.

  Professor King: To go back to your original question, I can't speak for 2006, but I have been reading the intelligence reports whenever I have been in Kandahar, since last autumn.

  I would say that the intelligence reports are really impressive, but—I have no expertise on the technological side and, perhaps, no particular interest—for me the failures of intelligence are not primarily to do with technology but to do with interpretation and analysis. I would say that the military are still primarily focused on what they would call a "red focus", an enemy focus, so they still analyse in ways that have strong resonances with the Cold War. They are understanding the Taliban insurgency in a conventional way, which means that what is lacking is not intelligence but understanding—fusing and locating violent conflict, the insurgency and its germination and spread within a political framework.

  The key missing part, or potentially missing part, in ISAF and for the British is not the intelligence at all, which is, as of October 2009, extremely impressive I think, but it is what Liddell Hart called the "still" and "silent" bit of warfare; the ability to analyse and to situate what we know about the actors in the South who are decisive for this campaign in their proper social and political context. The one optimism about that is that the silent and still part is cheap to do and easy, potentially, if you get the right teams in theatre to do it. I hope that Nick Carter thought his Prism Cell did some of that. I hope that that is accentuated and accelerated both for the British Task Force over the coming year and for NATO Forces across Afghanistan. That goes back to my initial point. That will get you the political solution that means we get out of that theatre with a successful outcome.

  Q107 John Glen: Turning to the Elections and the perception of corruption in Afghanistan, what impact have the recent Elections had on our operations there? That interaction between the democratic process and the perception of corruption, how does it effect operations? What comments do you have to make?

  Professor King: In terms of the recent election, I cannot comment. I haven't been there since June, so I just can't comment—I don't know if Professor Theo Farrell can. I could talk generally but not specifically.

  Professor Farrell: I didn't go back recently, so I've no straight answer.

  Q108 Chair: But you did mention WikiLeaks. What effect did the WikiLeaks have on the Afghan population, on the UK Armed Forces and on operations in general?

  Professor Farrell: That's obviously an important set of questions. Unfortunately, in the last study I was doing, I wasn't interacting with Afghan stakeholders, so I don't know the answer to that. Nor was I in theatre talking to the British down in Helmand, because I was at regional command level. I don't know the answer, I'm afraid.

  Q109 Chair: Can we get on to this issue of the end date? You suggest, I think, that the main effect is not on the Taliban but on the local population, who are still undecided as to which side to support. Is that right? Would you like to expand on that?

  Professor King: I'll go first, although it was a point that Professor Farrell made.

  There are a couple of points. If I could just clarify the nature of the withdrawal, obviously certain countries, including America, have set a date on the withdrawal—2015, potentially. But it is quite important to understand—or at least it's my interpretation of the campaign—that it is not that the US is thinking about withdrawing next year, but that they are hoping for is a draw-down of troops by next December, assuming the conditions that they think they will be able to achieve during the next year are in place, and the draw-down they conceive, from my discussions and observations, is a slow one over a decade. I think we need to be extremely careful about this sort of sense that the Americans are in any way thinking of Afghanistan in terms of a quick fix and a cut and run. On the contrary, everything points to a long-term investment, which is materially relevant to the question you ask in terms of Afghan perceptions.

  But it also makes an answer very difficult. I think it depends on the constituency of Afghans you are talking to. If you were talking to the power elite, the power brokers—Karzai and his patrimonial elite—I think they believe that the Americans will sustain their alliance with them over a significant period. As for average Afghans living in Kandahar, I haven't seen any evidence of polling about what they think of ISAF presence or evacuation, so it's a very difficult question to answer at that popular local level.

  Q110 Chair: So your suggestion is that the fact that the Americans have announced a start date for the withdrawal of their troops of July of next year is not something that really is upsetting the Afghan population, and the fact that the British have announced an end date is seen in the context of the fact that the Americans will still be there. Is that right?

  Professor King: I have to be very careful in terms of the Afghan perception of the British. What I would suggest is that there is no suggestion from the public statements of the leaders around the Kandahar area that they fear US precipitate withdrawal. As for what local Afghan leaders in the Helmand area precisely think about a 2015 date, I could not comment. Professor Farrell is probably better positioned.

  Professor Farrell: I'd agree with Professor King in one respect: it is very reasonable and important to ask about Afghan local and national popular perceptions of this issue, but it is notoriously difficult to get accurate data on this. There have been all sorts of problems with opinion polling in Helmand, for instance. It is very difficult to do. Also it will really matter in terms of which Afghans you are talking to. You can go right down to district level. If you are in a district which has enjoyed dramatic improvements in security, considerable growth, effective governance, well, you're probably a bit more relaxed about this, to be perfectly honest. If you're in a district that still has to turn that corner and you're hoping for that corner to turn and then you really are deciding, "Do I throw my lot in with the Afghan Government and Security Forces or do I hold back?" For instance, around Gereshk in Nahri Sarraj that is the situation.

  In terms of the issue of the withdrawal and the implications, there are obviously two views. One view is that by indicating that we're only going to be here for so much longer, you're going to push the Afghan Government to get their house in order, because there is a strong view that they, and ultimately they, must do it and secondly that you will push the Afghan Security Forces to continue to grow and be effective. The opposite view, obviously, is that you undermine the Afghan Government, particularly because you undermine public confidence. I would suggest that what will really matter is what happens in December and what happens in July. What's going to happen with Obama's review of the campaign in December, and how will that in turn impact on the draw-down? How steep? We know there's going to be a draw-down in July. The question is how steep will it be? That is going to be the critical thing. Right now we really are engaging in speculation. If the draw-down is fairly shallow then there will be a degree of confidence within Afghanistan. If, however, the draw-down is much steeper than people hoped or expected, alarm bells are going to ring.

Q111 Mr Havard: I found very interesting the statement by the Foreign Secretary on 27 October in the House. It is interesting that he talks there about the Prime Minister attending the NATO Summit on 19 November. To quote, he said that "we expect NATO to agree the process of transferring lead responsibility for security across Afghanistan to the Afghan Security Forces by the end of 2014. It will be a phased transition, with the Afghan Security Forces gradually taking the lead—as they have in Kabul—in jointly selected districts and provinces, as the conditions on the ground are met. British Forces will be drawn down from combat operations by 2015."

There's a whole packet there. This is combat operations that are being talked about, not how you support transition. There are all sorts of other processes. I commend that statement to you, because I think he starts to give a definition of what an acceptable end state in Afghanistan would be in his statement. I don't have time to quote it all now.

  As part of that process, there are changes that will have to be sequenced in, not the least of which is that President Karzai will not be President throughout some of that period, because there will be a transition. His period will end, and he can't stand again. Other people will be involved. You can see a set of manoeuvres already taking place on the ground for that transition to happen, by both individuals and groups.

  I'm interested in your thing about a narrow patronage system as opposed to a central state that might accept the imposition of some sort of amended Jeffersonian democracy, which is not going to happen. Can I ask you what you see as that process between now and 2014 in that transition? How should we be placing ourselves in that process?

  Professor King: The key point is that up to that date, I think, the military will take a primary role, necessarily, because the security dimension will be critical. But in order to get to 2014—it is a very dense and useful statement. If we're still at the level of intensity we are now—not just the British Task Force but NATO itself—ultimately, the campaign has been lost. What the Americans are planning for—I think their analysis is completely coherent—is that, should they go through the surge, they will then get into a position where there will be a more benign environment.

  That benign environment will allow a couple of important things, including the draw-down of combat troops, but, crucially, more space for mentoring Afghan Security Forces. I might put as a footnote there that I think we potentially need to think about local militias much more seriously than we have in terms of the gap in terms of numbers but also in terms of revenue. We haven't got enough revenue to support—Afghanistan does not generate enough revenue to support—the Security Forces that we have said are necessary for its security. It seems that some kind of localised neo-mediaeval militia, mentored and properly trained, might be a useful way to bridge the gap.

  But then, at that point, we get a diagram where the security bit goes down after 2015, and we get the governance and the economic development coming in. This is a key point. What will that regime look like? Karzai will no longer be President, but it will presumably be an Afghan patron, an aristocrat within his network, which we well know, around him. Presumably, the most likely person to take charge of the country is one of that quite small number of individuals within that ruling aristocratic elite.

  What we would look for by 2015 is a stabilised patrimonial system in which one of those members is operating, but in a way that is much more inclusive than the contemporary governance system and much more sustainable in terms of attracting legitimacy and the support of the Afghan people down in the villages and communities. By creating that sense of hierarchical order and providing a space for economic development, particularly by moving the South off narcotics—it won't be off narcotics by 2015—some areas might begin to move, especially from the West's point of view, towards a more sustainable form of agricultural production.

  Professor Farrell: You are quite right to say that at the Lisbon Summit there will be an announcement on the framework for the transition process, but there is unlikely to be any announcement on the details, the metrics and so forth. The conditions for a conditions-based transition still have to be defined. We should also anticipate two processes: the "big T" transition, which goes through NATO's North Atlantic Council; and the "small t" transition process, in which lots of small and quiet de facto transitioning will go on.

  Then there is the question about what will be transitioned. Will it be provinces? It looks like it will actually be clusters of districts. Will it be areas of districts? All those are yet to be defined. One can anticipate that the commander of ISAF Forces will want to maximise his freedom of manoeuvre with regard to his Afghan partners and Washington as he tries to shape the transition process.

  I suggest that the key thing to focus on as we go forward is how many of the key terrain districts are transitioned. Currently, there are 83, and the new plan increases that number somewhat. They focus on the key population centres, the economic nodes and the transport routes. They are basically central to the whole piece, but they are also where the enemy is likely to be in greatest force, if it has any force to try to resist what we are trying to achieve. It will be interesting to see the extent to which transitioning focuses on targeting key terrain districts, rather than other districts where we are perhaps less present, but so are the Taliban. They could be quietly transitioned as well.

  Q112 Mr Havard: There's a very interesting report in today's Financial Times by Ahmed Rashid—I am not familiar with him, but you probably are—in which he writes about the transition and the reconciliation of Taliban leaders. He mentions NATO providing them with—how should I put it—safe passage to Kabul for discussions, which the Afghans themselves wish to promote, and about doing all of that through the High Peace Council and related activities. However, that appears to be something that, although initiated by them, might destabilise the relationship with Pakistan. I would like you to talk a little about how that fits into the regional context. We have the development on the border with Iran, with Chinese bicycles and motorbikes being sold on one side, but then there is the Pakistan business about helping the transition. The Pakistanis feel that they are the brokers when dealing with the Taliban, but it appears that Afghanistan is taking its own independent initiative in approaching their Taliban. How do you see those political activities dictating or shaping our contribution in terms of support, training and help?

  Chair: We shall then draw the evidence session to a close.

  Mr Havard: Mine was just a typical question.

  Professor King: I will give a very quick answer. That is absolutely correct. Right from the start, it wasn't really an Afghan campaign, but an Afghan and Pakistan stabilisation operation—we perhaps came to that realisation later than might have been ideal—because the two were never separate.

  Mr Havard: Some of us have been saying that for a while.

  Professor King: I think that the ability to interact with Pakistan Government and gain their consent and participation in terms of a settlement in Kabul will be critical. For certain regional reasons, especially the Indian-Pakistani relationship, Afghanistan needs to be an autonomous regime. It seems to me that it is essential that Pakistan is minimally consensual in the kind of regime that there is in Afghanistan, because if they are not consensual, as they have shown in their involvement with various movements since 1979, particularly the Taliban, they have the ability to undermine anything that we try to build there. From what your question infers, I think that we are in agreement on that.

  Professor Farrell: I would just point out that reconciliation and reintegration are obviously pretty central to the end game. Again, it is a bit like intelligence; it is such a sensitive area of operations that it is extremely difficult to get reliable information. You correctly point out that the Afghans want ownership of the process—Karzai certainly does. The Pakistanis want to be the marriage makers in that, and that is actually not something Kabul wants. The Americans have their own views on that. So it is complicated.

  I would just point out one thing on reconciliation and reintegration. Broadly speaking, some people say that they are the same thing and don't make a big deal about the differences. However, some say that reconciliation is a strategic piece and that reintegration is a very tactical thing. They follow different logics. Reintegration follows a break-off logic; you break off chunks of the enemy's force structure and bring them back into society—they are already in society, but you get them to put their guns down and stop shooting at you. Reconciliation, however, follows a different logic; not a break-off logic, but a bring-over logic. You are trying to bring that side over into the constitutional process, or at least to buy them off and get them to go and live in the Emirates or somewhere. So it is a different logic.

  The problem with the current reconciliation efforts, as I understand it, is that they do not engage directly with Mullah Omar and, therefore, the Quetta Shura, so they are not actually following a bring-over logic. We are not having direct talks with him. We are having talks with certain people who may or may not be influential within the Quetta Shura. Therefore, it currently looks much like a break-off logic; you are trying to break off a chunk, perhaps of the Quetta Shura. The fact is that we do not know a lot for certain. At the very basic level, we don't even know whether the logic underpinning the current talks is the correct logic.

  Chair: I think that brings the evidence session to an end. Thank you both very much indeed. The conclusion I draw is that it is complicated. We are most grateful to you for setting out quite how complicated it is.

1   See supplementary written evidence from Professor Anthony King, Ev w23 [Note: references to Ev wXX are references to written evidence published in the volume of additional written evidence published on the Committee's website] Back

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