Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Numbers | Troops and Contractors | July 2012

For decades outside powers have intervened and occupied Afghanistan. The commitment of the international community to arm different groups is one reason the conflict has been so deadly for so long.

What is the current number of US and Afghan forces currently deployed and funded?

The answer may surprise you.

The combined forces - paid for by the US - is 567,655.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released their mandated quarterly report yesterday. With access to all official agencies involved with the war, it is one of the most authoritative reports available to the public.

The Special Inspector report is used to document the total number of US troops and Afghan National Security Forces. The figure for contractors comes from CENTCOM and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Here is the breakdown.

Afghanistan National Security Forces
191,592 – Afghan National Army (May 2012)
146,641 – Afghan National Police (June 2012)
Total – 338,233

US Military and Contractors

87,000 – Troops Deployed in Afghanistan (June 2012)
113,736 – Department of Defense (DoD) Contractors (July 2012)
28,686 – DoD Private Security – does not include USAID and State (July 2012)

Total – 229,422

Number of US Troops from SIGAR
Contractor numbers from CENTCOM Quarterly Contractor Census Report (DoD)
Afghan Security Forces from SIGAR

Two additional points from the special inspector report.

The goal is to build the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to 352,000 and then reduce the force to 228,500 by 2017. The Government of Afghanistan is scheduled to contribute $500 million by 2015. That represents less than 10% of the cost.
“The United States is covering most of the costs of the ANA (and provides a substantial amount for the ANP. The NATO Summit joint communiqué stipulates that the Afghan government will contribute $500 million in 2015 toward the sustainment of its security forces and gradually increase its share of the ANSF costs until 2024, when it will have full financial responsibility for its security forces.”
On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed the order making Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally. That makes it eligible for U.S. training, loans of equipment for research and development, and foreign military financing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Afghan Refugees in Pakistan | A Journey into the Unknown

"After 31 December 2012, there is no plan to extend the validity of the POR [proof of registration] cards of Afghan refugees. Those currently registered will lose the status of refugees. They will be treated under the law of the land. The provincial governments have already been asked to treat the existing unregistered refugees as illegal immigrants.
- Habibullah Khan, secretary of the ministry of states and frontier regions.

There are currently 1.7 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan – more than half of them under 18 – of whom 630,000 live in camps.

“Malik Sakhigul was just 28 when he ran away from Afghanistan. Soviet troops had swept through the country so he grabbed what little he could and led his parents and three daughters east across the border into Pakistan. More than three million of his countrymen ended up joining him.

Now 60, he returned home this month in a secret trip that marked the first tentative steps towards a permanent return - part voluntary and part under duress - and attempted to answer the question hanging over the heads of millions of Afghans in exile around the world: is it finally safe to go back?

"I went to see the conditions," he said last week.

"I wanted to see whether we will have a place to live there or not."

Malik is one of the elders at the Utmanzai refugee camp - a dry, dusty collection of mud huts in Pakistan's north-west, surrounded by cemeteries and filled with children who sing old songs of the beauty of a neighbouring country that to them is little more than legend.

"The younger ones think it is a magical place," one aid worker explains, "they only know it from the songs which describe Kabul as a most beautiful city with the bravest people in the world."

"It is when the children get older, about six years, that they start to learn what has happened."

Utmanzai sprang up during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan 33 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled for their lives across the border and sought refuge in Pakistan, kicking off [one of] the world's longest-running refugee crisis and creating what still is the biggest cluster of refugees anywhere in the globe, reaching a peak of more than four million.”
Read full article.

The UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) has additional details.

PESHAWAR, 24 July 2012(IRIN) - Pakistan is putting pressure on the estimated 2.8 million Afghan registered and unregistered refugees to return to their homeland by the end of 2012.

The government has said it will not renew the ID cards of the 1.8 million registered Afghan refugees.

Last week, Habibullah Khan, secretary in the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, was quoted by the media as saying: "The international community desires us to review this policy but we are clear on this point. The refugees have become a threat to law and order, security, demography, economy and local culture. Enough is enough.

"After 31 December 2012, there is no plan to extend the validity of the POR [proof of registration] cards of Afghan refugees. Those currently registered will lose the status of refugees. They will be treated under the law of the land. The provincial governments have already been asked to treat the existing unregistered refugees as illegal immigrants.”

“Asylum space is narrowing given that the government of Pakistan is pretty serious about returning most of them to Afghanistan,” said Aamir Fawad, protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “We are talking to the government to extend, but it is unclear what will happen.”

In June, Pakistan agreed to delay the forced repatriation of 400,000 Afghans who were rounded up in Peshawar for being in the country illegally.

“There is increased pressure on them to either move to camps or repatriate,” one aid worker who preferred anonymity told IRIN. “Every day, I see people being harassed by the security officials. Those living in refugee villages are facing pressure from landlords as well. Yet at the same time, the situation in Afghanistan is not attractive for return.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why We Don't Count Afghan Deaths

In February the United Nations reported for the fifth year in a row that civilian deaths had increased.

Reporting on violence against Afghans has become so internalized that only spectacular events and high profile assassinations get attention. Recent events have again highlighted the legacy that Afghans will have to deal with in the future.

It is impossible for anybody to say that the U.S. has contributed to Afghanistan’s long-term security, reduced the possibility of long-term conflict, or strengthened institutions that can bring long-term stability.

Mural Image: Peace for Afghanistan
Patricia Sotarello & AFSC Chicago Summer Institute Students
From: Windows and Mirrors

“Violence in Afghanistan is at its fiercest since U.S.-led Afghan troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001…” - Monday 16 July | Reuters

Friday: Hanifa Safi, regional head of Women’s Bureau is assassinated by a car bomb
“The targeting of Afghan women leaders in government positions is not a new phenomenon. Safia Amajan held the same position as Safi in Kandahar. Sitara Achakzai was a provincial council member. Malalai Kakar was provincial chief of female police in Kandahar. A number of women aid workers, whose names and identities are not recorded, have also been murdered.”
Saturday: Ahmad Khan Samangani, Member of Parliament is assassinated
“Among those killed were the provincial head of the intelligence service, the NDS, Engineer Muhammad Khan, the police commander for western Afghanistan, Sayed Ahmad Sameh and the head of training for the Afghan National Army in Balkh province Muhammadullah. One of the Balkh MP, Eshaq Rahgozar, was wounded, as was the former Sar-e Pul governor, Sayed Iqbal Munib."
Sunday: Higher Education Minister Obaidullah Obaid, survives attempt
Monday: District governor Nizamulldin Nasher survives assassination attempt

Susan G. Chesser writing for the Congressional Research Service on casualties earlier this month makes the point that we do not track the deaths of Afghan Army and Police.
“Because the estimates of Afghan casualties contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using different methodologies, readers should exercise caution when using them and should look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.”
“Reporting on casualties of Afghans did not begin until 2007, and a variety of entities now report the casualties of civilians and security forces members. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports casualty data of Afghan civilians semiannually, and the U.S. Department of Defense occasionally includes civilian casualty figures within its reports on Afghanistan. …From July 2009 through April 2010, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) included statistics of casualties of members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in its quarterly reports to Congress. SIGAR has ceased this practice, and there is no other published compilation of these statistics. This report now derives casualty figures of Afghan soldiers and police from the press accounts of the Reuters “Factbox: Security Developments in Afghanistan” series, the Pajhwok Afghan News agency, the Afghan Islamic Press news agency, Daily Outlook Afghanistan from Kabul, and the AfPak Channel Daily Brief."
Afghan Army and Police

Afghanistan's former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh in an interview on Sunday said there has been no improvement in security situation in recent months.
"It is sincerely unfortunate: nearly 1,800 personnel of Afghan national army and police were killed and 4,000 injured in the last three months," Saleh said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month told parliament that 20-25 national security forces were being killed every day.
The Humanitarian Bulletin for June by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states that “… almost one million children under five years to be acutely malnourished in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unlearned Lessons From Afghanistan’s Decade of Assistance

Snapshots of an Intervention
The Unlearned Lessons of Afghanistan’s Decade of Assistance (2001–11)
Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 2012

The decade of state-building, reconstruction and development assistance in Afghanistan has left many people confused. There have been undeniable changes: Afghanistan now has an election-based, market-driven political system and many socio-economic indicators are far better than they used to be under Taleban rule or during the civil war (although that is, admittedly, not a very high bar). There have been great, albeit unequal, opportunities in terms of education, employment and enrichment. But there is also a strong sense of missed and mismanaged opportunities, which many – Afghans and internationals alike – find difficult to understand: how could so many resources have achieved what feels like so little and so fleeting?

This edited volume explores the question by taking a closer look at a variety of key programmes and projects that were designed and implemented over the last decade, or more. It consists of a collection of 25 articles by analysts and practitioners with long histories in the country, who were closely involved in the programmes they describe. The contributions present a rare and detailed insight into the complexity of the intervention in Afghanistan – including the often complicated relations between donors and representatives of the Afghan government (with projects tending to be nominally Afghan-led, but clearly donor-driven), the difficulties in achieving greater coherence and leverage and, in many cases, the widely shared failure to learn the necessary lessons and to adapt to realities as they were encountered.

The experiences that the authors describe will probably sound all too familiar to anyone who has worked in post-conflict, aid-heavy contexts: the popularity of ‘trophy projects’ (Wiles), the proliferation of ‘encyclopaedic wish lists’ as a result of cumulative planning sessions (Leslie), the diplomatic wrangling to be given a seat at the table (Wilkens), the empty government buildings due to faulty planning (Horne), the frustration of trying to secure government buy-in for measures that threaten to disturb the political and economic status quo (Barr). They will also recognise the tendency for political expediency to trump long-term institution-building and accountability (Ruttig, Olexiuk, Kouvo) and the dubious role that post-conflict elections play in a country’s democratisation (Smith, Slavu).

The overarching lesson of the volume is probably that the key tools of the international assistance intervention – the protracted policy processes and coordination mechanisms, the large and inflexible assistance budgets, the focus on capacity building through mentoring and technical assistance – have proved to be very blunt indeed. There were successes to be found in the cracks, but mainly where a coherence of vision, realism and a fair amount of political will on the Afghan side ensured that good use was made of the resources provided.

The release of this book ahead of the Tokyo conference in July 2012 serves as a reminder of the recurring gaps between ambitious plans and conference statements on one hand and the subsequent realities of aid programming and implementation on the other. It is hoped this volume will help fortify the institutional memory of the donor community in Afghanistan, preventing future lapses and helping enable a greater capacity to learn world-wide. The lessons that have not been learned have relevance far beyond Afghanistan.
- Martine van Bijlert

Afghans Protest Woman's Public Execution

The release of a video showing a young woman’s public execution was absolutely heart breaking. There was a public protest in Kabul today calling for an end to gender-based violence.

Afghan women march with banners to protest the recent public execution of a young woman for alleged adultery, in Kabul on July 11, 2012. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/GettyImages)

Una Moore speaks to the day’s events.
“Today, for the second time this year, progressive Afghans took to Kabul’s streets to voice their outrage at a gruesome act of gender-based violence and demand justice for the victim. This time, the demonstration was prompted by the extrajudicial execution of a young woman named Najiba in a village less than two hours from the capital.

Last week, shocking video of the crime emerged online, causing uproar among civil society activists and human rights advocates. The New York Times published this unsparing description of the footage, which quickly went viral and is still available on the Guardian’s website."
Full post here.

Afghanistan head of Human Rights Commission Seema Samar (C) marches with Afghan women to protest the recent public execution of a young woman for alleged adultery, in Kabul on July 11, 2012. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/GettyImages)

Massoud Hossaini, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize last year for his work in Afghanistan has a slideshow of the demonstration.

Una Moore writes for UN Dispatch and has a great site called transitionland.

Young Women for Change have been focused on this issue for a long time. Check out their engaging facebook page.

Monday, July 9, 2012

War Supplies Resume Through Pakistan | Drone Strikes kill 19

On Friday, one day after Pakistan resumed transit of NATO war supplies to Afghanistan, CIA drones killed 19 in the Dhattakel region of North Waziristan.

The shipment of war supplies through Pakistan were suspended in November following a US cross-border air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

One of the requirements to open the supply line was an apology. In return, Pakistan agreed to levy no extra fees from the $250 per truck, and appear to have abandoned their demand that the US stop drone strikes in their country.

Background post here.

Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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