April 16, 2008

NATO Resupplies Taliban?

Kip has been following this story for some time in the Afghan news and was waiting for a wire or someone to break it on this side of the ocean to share it with you.

If you want to know just how inept ISAF is at information operations, supposedly one of only four things ISAF says it does, then read on.

Now, on first glance, the whole story seems rather ridiculous. It goes like this.

Somebody, NATO says it wasn't them, went to re-supply a police checkpoint via helicopter. They sling-loaded a couple of boxes of guns and dropped them off at the checkpoint. Except they dropped them off at the wrong checkpoint, according to Afghanistan's head of the National Directorate of Security (aka KGB) , and the Taliban got them.

A number of Afghan legislators now claim that this was a purposeful resupply of the Taliban by the Coalition.

Now, if you are scratching your head at this point, you can probably be excused, as it all sounds a little weird. Cerainly ISAF's public affairs officer seems to be scratching his.

(and the fact that the Associated Press went to a US public affairs officer at Bagram as part of the seperate "US-led Coalition" shows just how little the US itself has played into the whole ISAF thing since the public affairs officer at Bagram is part of a US unit that is theoretically subordinate to ISAF, not part of the US-based advisor Coalition which is commanded from Kabul and not within ISAF; if you take ISAF seriously, it is kind of like going to a battalion commander's public affairs officer to find out why the brigade commander did something)

But reports of Coalition resupply to the Taliban have been somewhat regular in the Afghan press since at least 2006. So, why on earth would Afghans believe something so silly?

Well, the answer as I could best discern from my time with Afghans goes something like this. The Afghan people witnessed the Taliban absolutely vanquished by the world's only superpower in only a couple of months--this after another superpower had been bled out and defeated in Afghanistan's mountains. The Taliban, at least for most Afghans, were entirely wiped out. If they have come back, Afghans reason, it could only be because the Americans and others have let them. Why does NATO want the Taliban to stick around? The answer to this is sometimes a little harder to draw out but is generally built around NATO wanting to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely and needing the Taliban to do it.

This is all, of course, balderdash. But it is balderdash of the important sort as, while not supporting the Taliban's narrative necessarily, it makes NATO seem to be hellbent on thwarting Afghans' desires for peace and stability. This is what happens when you fail to "manage information and expectations."

Not only did I hear from civilians who found these supposed midnight rescues of the Taliban to be believable, but I also spoke with many Afghan Security Forces including the National Directorate of Security found them somewhat credible.

And the best ISAF can muster up in response to an Afghan Parliamentarian claiming that they re-supplied the Taliban in what seems to have been a real case of the Taliban being (accidentally) supplied by a helicopter is "wasn't our helicopter"?

Come on now. Perhaps a name change from ISAF, reputedly standing for, "I Suck At Fighting" to ISAP, "I Suck At Propaganda" is now in order.