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NightWatch 20091214

NightWatch

For the Night of 14 December 2009

Japan: For the record. Prime Minister Hatoyama will announce Japan's policy on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture following an agreement by the heads of the three parties in the ruling coalition, The Associated Press reported 14 December.

Okinawa affairs minister Seiji Maehara said the government will make an announcement at a 15 December meeting of the ministerial committee on basic policy. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said that leaders of the three parties would "recognize and share" the direction in which the government will proceed on the matter.

Several news services report that Japan has decided to delay until next May any decision concerning the future of the base.

Afghanistan: Today, 16 policemen were killed by anti-government fighters in incidents in Helmand and Baghlan.

NightWatch special comment: Today, NightWatch researched the Afghan National Police. One news report quoted a US Marine colonel's rather correct comments about the need to improve the Afghan National Police. But that is not a Marine Corps task, nor an Army task. In fact, the US has no standing force whose "skill sets" match the challenges of the Afghan National Police. Neither does Germany, who took the early lead in police training. The French Gendarmerie plus the Republican Guard blended might come closest to having the training, capabilities and experience that the Afghan police desperately need.

The research effort today found the plan for the police. Of the 82,000 police, more than 44,000 are to be uniform cops trained in detecting crimes, protecting property, crime prevention and road traffic management, according to the plan. Not one of those skills - appropriate for a modern Western law abiding nation - is remotely relevant to the primary threat to these policemen.

It is hard to imagine a more misguided and misdirected program. In the police planning documents available online, fewer than 5,365 policemen are to be trained and equipped as paramilitary/SWAT units. And yet, the fighting data shows that all Afghan police should have that quality of training and equipment. Every unit in every district should be a commando-capable unit with the appropriate training, weapons and vehicles. Or should have a back-up element with that skill set. This should be a no-brainer.

If those skills are the focus of training, as the documents indicate, the Western Coalition has been recruiting men for a suicide mission, because the police duties in Afghanistan are a lot like commando-infantry duties, not law enforcement. The astonishing fact is not how corrupt the police are, but that any show up for duty at all.

Policemen have died by the thousands every year for Afghanistan because of a lack of training in combat operations against a light infantry enemy; a lack of mobility so that hot pursuit has been a joke; and for pathetically low pay, but still men volunteer.

The Coalition has done things upside down, in emphasizing the Army - an external defense force -- over the police who man the frontline against the Taliban in the 400 districts. The two needed to work together and grow in tandem.

In fairness, NATO and allied army forces have done reasonably well what they know how to do well and were told to do - raise an army. But that has always been only half the security challenge and policy makers should have known, had they studied the history.

Since 2001, the police have been pretty much neglected, mis-led, mis-trained, under equipped and given no mobility worthy of the name- international harvester pickup trucks? Come on! They been outgunned and outmaneuvered by the anti-government tribesmen for eight years. Their training has been devoted to a modern urban sense of law enforcement. That is completely irrelevant to law enforcement in a war zone with millions of non-combatants.

The policemen are the front line and the face of the administration, but their leaders show no sense of elitism and no leadership vision that accords the policemen the credit they are due, even taking account of bribery and payoffs. Whoever developed the plan for the Afghan National Police did not research or ever grasps the challenges policemen encounter in primitive, pre-modern societies.

No surge of maneuver troops will accomplish anything that lasts if a competent, permanent paramilitary force does not hold the ground and consolidate the gains. At least one Marine colonel recognized, at last, the criticality of a paramilitary police force, not traffic cops and criminal investigators. They come after the Taliban are whipped in 99% of the firefights in the districts.

As an aside, one might also wonder who was the savant who decided that districts the size of US counties only needed 100 policemen or fewer. Will someone please provide him a copy of Afghanistan, by Dupree? Even in the US, a county police force will total more than a 100 officers in most counties and they will not include village or town police forces within the county but separate from the county force.

Fewer than 100 Afghan policemen for every district and major town borders is criminally insufficient.

As a second aside, over the weekend, news services reported a pay raise for the Afghan army and police. The monthly payroll for army soldiers will total $37,582,000 per month or $450, 984, 000 per year, In other words less than half a billion per year. New services from Afghanistan state men have flocked to the recruitment stations to apply.

Increasing the pay for the police to $400 per month would be cheaper, totaling $32,800,000 per month and $393,600,000 per annum. If an extra $100 per person per month can create jobs and reduce the violence, it would be money much more effectively spent than on the fully loaded rate of a single gallon of gasoline, which is $4,000 per gallon delivered to Helmand Province, or the fully loaded cost of an American Marine or Infantry soldiers.

Readers, the total annual payroll of the Afghan army and police, including a $100 per month pay increase, is less than the monthly cost of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Time to start using American economic sense to help fight the war. As added bonuses, the Afghans actually speak the local languages, know the terrain and know the residents. In the US armed forces, each of those skills would be result in added pay increases.

It is a tiresome refrain, but the time is overdue for the US got serious about Afghanistan so that Afghans take charge and responsibility for Afghanistan. White or olive European and American Christians are temporary help and have always been.

Almost final note: American armed drones are the counter-terror for Mullah Omar, bin Laden and their acolytes. The counter-terror is coming their way under the new strategy. That is the good news for this night.

Final note: Who keeps authorizing US generals and other flag officers to speak out in public to contradict the President? There have been three really stupid statements by men with stars on their shoulder boards in the past three days that contradict or reinterpret the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at least to the casual reader.

What in the serviceman's oath to uphold and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic provides the charter for a flag officer in uniform to speak in public at all, as opposed to conveying concerns up the chain of command? The generals all sound like politicians more than warfighters.

Iran: Update. Three Americans jailed since July for crossing the border from Iraq to Iran will be tried, The Associated Press reported 14 December, citing Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Mottaki did not specify the charges or when proceedings would begin, but he called the U.S. citizens' goals suspicious. Interrogation of the three continues, he said.

End of NightWatch for 14 December.

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