Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A Marine gunner’s Afghanistan AAR (II): The art of the partner

I could listen to CWO2/Gunner (and former gunnery sergeant) Keith Marine — he insists that is his real name — all day long. As one of the commenters said, he speaks real English. So listen in here as he discusses partnering with Afghan forces: [W]e will never succeed unless these guys know we care and ...

575459_091220_afghanistan2.jpg
575459_091220_afghanistan2.jpg
US Marine Lieutenant Joshua Bales (3R) of 2nd Battalion 2 Marines of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade chats to Afghan villagers during a patrol with soldiers of the Afghan National Army in Mian Poshteh in Helmand Province on November 22, 2009. The United States and NATO have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban as US President Barack Obama is considering whether to add up to 40,000 more, a decision expected after the November 26 Thanksgiving holiday. AFP PHOTO/ Manpreet ROMANA (Photo credit should read MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)

I could listen to CWO2/Gunner (and former gunnery sergeant) Keith Marine -- he insists that is his real name -- all day long. As one of the commenters said, he speaks real English. So listen in here as he discusses partnering with Afghan forces:

[W]e will never succeed unless these guys know we care and get them proficient enough to do the job. First understand that they are not Americans and have a different culture. You will more than likely not be able to keep them from having sex with each other, smoking pot, or taking a little off the top.  You can take their drugs when you find it and remind them it is against their religion and diminishes their capabilities in combat and if you are truly partnered with them you can prevent them from stealing from the locals, because you are with them 24/7. Focus on how we can make them a better force.  You don't have that far to go with the ANCOP and ANA (they already have an acceptable level of corruptness and the people respect them and are proud of them.  Additionally in my experience they are braver than Iraqis and not as lazy). Just teach them basics fundamentals -- patrolling formations and techniques, weapons handling, fire discipline, and TTPs that you commonly train to. You have to have patience and treat them with respect.  Include them in the planning process, rehearsals, and allow for patrol orders to be translated. 

I could listen to CWO2/Gunner (and former gunnery sergeant) Keith Marine — he insists that is his real name — all day long. As one of the commenters said, he speaks real English. So listen in here as he discusses partnering with Afghan forces:

[W]e will never succeed unless these guys know we care and get them proficient enough to do the job. First understand that they are not Americans and have a different culture. You will more than likely not be able to keep them from having sex with each other, smoking pot, or taking a little off the top.  You can take their drugs when you find it and remind them it is against their religion and diminishes their capabilities in combat and if you are truly partnered with them you can prevent them from stealing from the locals, because you are with them 24/7. Focus on how we can make them a better force.  You don’t have that far to go with the ANCOP and ANA (they already have an acceptable level of corruptness and the people respect them and are proud of them.  Additionally in my experience they are braver than Iraqis and not as lazy). Just teach them basics fundamentals — patrolling formations and techniques, weapons handling, fire discipline, and TTPs that you commonly train to. You have to have patience and treat them with respect.  Include them in the planning process, rehearsals, and allow for patrol orders to be translated. 

I honestly am not convinced that the ANP will be an acceptable force in the next few years. I have had numerous locals on patrol tell me that they don’t trust them and would rather have the Taliban in charge. Locals here have long memories and it will be a herculean effort to change the attitude towards the ANP. They go far beyond the bounds of acceptable graft and indicators lead me to believe are not always on our side of the fight. They are a localized force, unlike the ANA and ANCOP, and in turn probably have relatives fighting for the Taliban. We had similar problems in Iraq with the IPs.  We solved that problem by putting squads in police stations and keeping a constant eye on them — different type of partnering.

‘Nuff said?

MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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