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
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.
Could you all begin please by telling us from your different perspectives
what you think the key issues in Afghanistan are? Who would like
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 seenI haven't been out there for a while,
but I have been following events on the ground closelythe
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 issueand I will be briefer
on these other tworelates 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
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
industryour defence industryto 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 ArmyANAnow 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 worldPakistan
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 practicesour
practices as international players in Afghanistanand in
particular the creation of parallel structures. When we go in
as international community actorsNGOs and IGOswe
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
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
As the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, obviously he's got
a very full plate and he's achieving a lothe's very impressive
as the new SCR. But one of the areas that he has to focus onand
on which I'm sure he intends to focusis 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 rightthis
links into the issues of corruptionone 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 waythose are
the kinds of points that Colonel Kemp and Professor Farrell have
also alluded towe 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 forcescounter-narcotics activity further southwe
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 formerprobably
current nowwarlords. 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
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 versionthere 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 reportsthe
post-operational reports and lessonsthat 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, messagingessentially,
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 outgetting 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 desertthat
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
ANSFAfghan 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
councilthe 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 situationthe 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 economythe
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
forcethat, 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
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 Governmentit has to bebut
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 Moshtarakthe 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 OPLANis 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 problemscorruptionthat 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 expediencythat
might have a moral relativism in it that I find a bit difficultthat
would stabilise Pakistan, rather than Afghanistan? Is that what
you are sayingthat 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 Helmandand appreciate,
of course, that we also had the Marine push into Marjah and other
areaswas 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 HelmandProfessor
King can speak more to it. That now is the point in Kandaharto
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
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
thatthe study was reported to the Command about two months
agoif 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
theatremassively 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
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
planthe whole US COIN conceptemerges 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
historicallyethnically and triballybut 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 HelmandGovernor Mangalwho 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 himthat
seems to be able to ensure that certain effects roll down this
peculiar and complex political geography, especially in Southern
I suggest, if we look at the Operationand
Mr Havard mentioned it in terms of Operation Moshtarak 3, which
is currently ongoing in the Arghandab Valley just outside Kandahar
citythe most optimistic process there is Hamkari. Political
engagement, identifying appropriate political leaders who are
legitimate in Afghanistanand not just legitimate, but capablehas
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 whileand 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-ledwhether or not it is Karzai himselfwithin
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 termfive 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 pointthis relates to a period
of very long term that is well into our old ageis 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 havethe PRT hasan
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 governorsfor example, in Musa
Qala and Sanginand 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 IDLGthe
Independent Directorate of Local Governancein 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 munitionseverything
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 civiliansand we have spoken about thatbut
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 undoubtedlyparticularly
with the local private security firmsa 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 unequivocaldo 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
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 Talibanthey
don't need that to be emboldenedbut 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 demonstratealmost like the deal
with the new member states of eastern and central Europelong-term
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
Chair: Colonel Kemp, it is past 3.34,
so past your witching-hour.
Colonel Kemp: It's past my bed
Q88 Chair: Thank you very much
indeed for coming to give evidence. It has been most helpful and
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 yearsI would say from December 2008there
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 donean 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 environmentand, indeed, potentially highly hostile
environmentthose 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
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 workableI
might say very good, or at least adequateunderstanding
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 underthat 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 weakI am not saying
he was weak, but he was seen as weakand 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 understandingthere 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 governorwe
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
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 headquartersISAF Joint Commandand
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
Structureall sorts of different thingshow 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 forcesforces
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 questionsjust
to confirmin 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.
Q95 Chair: Before we get on to
that, the Marines don't traditionally operate with anybody else,
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 upan American senior civilian representativeso
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 PRTyou will know
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 describingthis
was one of the points that came out of my report to General Rodriguez,
but it is not newsis 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 reasonswe
all know of the problems at UNAMAand 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 governorGeneral
Mills, the commander of Regional Command South-West, is frequently
down in Lashkar Gahand 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
Professor Farrell: The Strategic
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 theyas is very frequent with British officers selected
to work in American headquartersare having huge influence.
They are extremely capable officers. I think that the fears that
this Committee hasI 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 levelthe civilian casualties that our forces perpetrate
in Afghanistanbut 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 casualtyat
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
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
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
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 anticipatednot only
ourselves, but the Canadians in Kandahar and our Danish partners
in theatrewas 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
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 thatyou can't
comment in detail on intelligencewas 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
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 theatrethe
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 usethe 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, butI have no expertise on the technological
side and, perhaps, no particular interestfor 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 understandingfusing
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 commentI 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 withdrawal2015,
potentially. But it is quite important to understandor
at least it's my interpretation of the campaignthat 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 brokersKarzai
and his patrimonial eliteI 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 leadas they have in Kabulin 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 2014it is a very dense and useful
statement. If we're still at the level of intensity we are nownot
just the British Task Force but NATO itselfultimately,
the campaign has been lost. What the Americans are planning forI
think their analysis is completely coherentis 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 supportAfghanistan does
not generate enough revenue to supportthe 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 narcoticsit won't be off narcotics
by 2015some areas might begin to move, especially from
the West's point of view, towards a more sustainable form of agricultural
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
Q112 Mr Havard: There's a very
interesting report in today's Financial Times by Ahmed
RashidI am not familiar with him, but you probably arein
which he writes about the transition and the reconciliation of
Taliban leaders. He mentions NATO providing them withhow
should I put itsafe 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 operationwe perhaps came to that
realisation later than might have been idealbecause 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
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 processKarzai 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
societythey 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
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