NATO Response to Taliban Attacks: Pump Up Image of Afghan Forces

Because it is clear that the Obama administration steadfastly refuses to address its rapidly failing Afghanistan strategy prior to November’s elections, NATO is forced to labor under the increasingly difficult prospect of handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces as the surge of NATO troops is drawn down this summer and then remaining combat troops are withdrawn over the next two years. In a desperate attempt to make that process less ludicrous, NATO chose to respond to this weekend’s coordinated attacks by the Taliban by burnishing the image of Afghan security forces. After suffering greatly from repeated “isolated incidents” of Afghan forces killing NATO forces and with the devastating reports of the ineptitude and duplicity of Afghan forces from Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, the tarnished image of Afghan forces threatens to derail the planned “victory” scenario of departing Afghanistan by handing over security to Afghan forces.

AP seems to be cooperating very well with the NATO narrative, as its article this morning on the attacks carries the headline “Afghan-led forces beat back brazen Taliban attack“. Yet, even their article makes it clear the Afghan forces are hardly operating on their own:

Some international forces could be seen taking part in operations to secure and retake buildings in the capital — NATO troops embedded in Afghan units as “trainers” or “mentors.” And two coalition helicopters were seen firing on the building in the center of Kabul.

That admission is meant to be overlooked, as it immediately follows praise for the Afghan forces:

U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, praised the Afghan security forces’ response to the attacks.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker added to the information operation, praising Afghan security forces even as he was pinned inside his Embassy by the violence. From the New York Times:

The American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, speaking to CNN from a locked-down American Embassy, praised the Afghan security forces as having “acquitted themselves very, very well, very professionally.”

Yup. Pay no attention to those embedded “mentors”, just keep saying the Afghan troops were the ones who repulsed these attacks. And Crocker didn’t stop there. He went on to say that all this training we’re doing is going so well, we just might need to extend it (so that its failure is never exposed?):

He added that attacks like this strengthened the case for Americans staying until the Afghans were fully ready to handle the situation on their own.

Oops, be careful there Mr. Ambassador. The current information operation is meant to build up the perceived capability of Afghan forces, not cast doubt on them.

The Washington Post also is helping NATO put out its story that Afghan forces primarily were responsible for repelling the Taliban attacks. The story there carries the headline “Afghan security forces kill 36 insurgents to quell spate of deadly attacks” and General Allen is allowed to present his spin in favor of the Afghans:

The Afghan security forces “were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated. They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained,” Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

But in the very next paragraph, we have those pesky embedded “trainers”:

Less than an hour after the attack began, members of the Afghan Crisis Response Unit and their NATO trainers entered the building from which insurgents were firing. There were two large blast holes visible in the facade of the Kabul Star Hotel, frequented by Westerners and wealthy Afghans, located just across the street.

As if multiple, simultaneous attacks in what were supposed to be the most secure regions in Afghanistan were not enough bad news, we also learn this morning that reinforcements are on the way for the Taliban, as the Pakistani Taliban have freed nearly 400 prisoners from a jail near Peshawar:

In what is being called the biggest jailbreak in Pakistani history, Taliban fighters stormed a prison in the northwestern town of Bannu early Sunday, freeing almost 400 prisoners, including a militant commander who tried in 2003 to assassinate the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Those freed are expected to join the battle against NATO:

But the most likely destination for many of the fugitives was North Waziristan, a lawless tribal area adjoining Bannu that is rife with militants from Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Taliban network and other militant groups, many operating on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. North Waziristan has borne the brunt of the C.I.A.’s drone strike campaign, which the Pakistani Parliament last week demanded should end immediately.

How will NATO spin the next attacks, especially if the frequency of attacks and their complexity continue to go up? November is still a long way off.

Postscript: Just to emphasize how the information operation is being played out, at the time I started writing this post, the headline on the New York Times article was “Complex Attack by Taliban Sends Message to the West”. That clearly wasn’t in line with today’s required messaging, so it now reads “Afghan Forces End Taliban Attack That Shook Capital”. Good newspaper, you will have another “exclusive” soon.

8 replies
  1. Arbusto says:

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Always NATO forces, not USofA forces that comprise what, about 70% of boots on the ground, and more boots in more dangerous areas. Juan Cole opines, WTF in wondering about the attacks purpose. I wonder how much sooner this debacle would end if reporters and editors substituted US instead of covering Obama and the Generals collective asses by using NATO for a thin veil of propaganda.

  2. MadDog says:

    The MSM herd continues on its unthinking path directed by the US government drovers.

    CBS Evening News tonight emphasized the very same aspect of the Taliban attack story as reported by Jim. That the forces of the Afghan government were primarily responsible for defeating the Taliban.

    It’s really an amazing thing to watch. Who knew one could herd cats?

  3. ryan says:

    The sarcasm is a bit thick considering the dearth of information you offer to support the thesis. Merely showing that western press report A doesn’t make B true.

    The Times notes between 8 and 11 Afghan security forces killed and 41 wounded, which does indeed imply they were fighting hard and bearing the brunt of the response.

    They also mention the trainers are Norwegian, an interesting detail to me. Different from what a commenter above seemed to expect

    Afghan officials give the same story as the Americans, but perhaps that’s to be expected. But Khaama tells the story the same way in their Afghan accented English version, and none of the Afghan English accounts seem to contradict the basic point. I’ve not found any mention of ISAF casualties.

  4. orionATL says:

    from a cite in this article,

    a quote from another jim white post:

    “… If the American people do not demand their leaders be completely honest with them, we all forfeit the ability to determine our own destiny. If our acquiescence for a war decision is gained by some leader telling us a version of events that will result in our support – but that version is not in accordance with what really exists – how can we know whether war or supporting a war is really a good idea or not? Are the American people content to allow selected individuals, for reasons important to them, to decide when they are told the truth and when they are given fiction? When we tacitly know leaders don’t tell the truth and yet do nothing about it, we effectively surrender control to our leaders and give them free reign to do as they see fit. Already we have gone far down this path and as a public have already relinquished considerable control that ought to reside in the people’s hands…” –

    lt. col. davis

  5. Jim White says:

    @ryan: Yup. I guess those helicopters weren’t there, the embedded trainers were ignored and the Times changed their headline from concentrating on the attack to concentrating on the Afghan response just for grins.

  6. ryanwc says:

    Choppers don’t clear buildings, nor do a handful of Norwegian trainers.

    The Afghans did the heavy lifting here. They fought well, took significant casualties and still won the battle. You need to admit that. That doesn’t erase all the problems with the Karzai administration and with American policy in Afghanistan.

    But you still need to admit it.

    Compare EW’s tone on the Panjwai stuff to your tone here. She was uncertain, and admitted it, while pressing forward on an interesting open question in a news vaccuum by painstakingly examining details, not making buffoonish claims about motives. She pursued it, while controlling the tendency to overstate what could be said with any certainty.

    You however, had next to nothing here, so you went with bluster, and when it turned out to be wrong, you just try to raise the stakes to see if you can bluff people out. You can learn and do better, examine details, recognize when there are weaknesses in stories and recognize when there aren’t through close analysis. Or you can keep up the bluster.

    Did you notice that there still hasn’t been any change of government in Pakistan? Notice that the Emir of Qatar seems secure on his throne? When you’ve been right on some big ones, maybe you can be forgiven overstatement on a few little ones. Learn the lesson that the Afghans seem to have learned. You’re writing like an Afghan soldier of last September – firing wildly in all directions. Slow dow, take aim and you can learn to hit the target more often than not.

  7. Bob Schacht says:

    “He added that attacks like this strengthened the case for Americans staying until the Afghans were fully ready to handle the situation on their own.”

    And that will be when? The Twelfth of Never?
    Sometimes ya just hafta cut yer losses.

    Bob in AZ

  8. Jim White says:

    @ryanwc: Just no. I’ve been following the “training” situation for years and we have consistently seen that the entire premise of training Afghan (and for that matter, Iraqi) troops has been a sham from the start, with Petreaus especially being allowed to wipe the slate clean several times and “re-start” training in both places. Go back and read the careful documentation in the Daniel Davis posts. He shows how the Afghan forces are completely incompetent, often cut deals with insurgents and simply refuse to fight on many occasions when they don’t have US or other forces to cover for them. For those troops to now be the heroes in the weekend’s operations tells me there is much more information operation to that news than there is substance.

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