Update from Afghanistan: This guy says the cuts in RC East will hurt the transition
By “An American Official” Best Defense guest whistleblower Regional Command-East has forgone efforts aimed at transition in favor of continuing kinetic warfare. In an order issued in late September, provincial reconstruction teams throughout the easternmost provinces of Afghanistan are facing dramatic cuts, upwards of 60 percent for some, by the end of the year. The ...
By "An American Official"
Best Defense guest whistleblower
By “An American Official”
Best Defense guest whistleblower
Regional Command-East has forgone efforts aimed at transition in favor of continuing kinetic warfare. In an order issued in late September, provincial reconstruction teams throughout the easternmost provinces of Afghanistan are facing dramatic cuts, upwards of 60 percent for some, by the end of the year. The effort is an attempt to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of cutting deployed military forces by perhaps 23,000.
While RC-E is making cuts across the board, other commands are trying to avoid fragmenting PRTs, which serve as the driving force behind transition. PRTs are comprised of military, Department of State, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and USAID experts who are highly specialized in combating sources of instability through empowering and mentoring civic leaders, constructing development projects, and educating public. They serve as a positive U.S. presence in a nation devastated by decades of war and strife.
As the U.S. tries to move toward a feasible “exit strategy,” many PRTs are laying the foundations for U.S. consulates to house DoS, USAID, and USDA representatives for years to come. However, with cuts favoring the traditional warfighter in the East, PRTs will be forced to “do less with less,” while still struggling to bring transition to war-torn areas of Afghanistan.
For the last five years, PRTs have suffered reduced freedom of movement and the ability to show US presence in a positive way. As a stepchild, PRTs now fall under the battle space owners, who could care less about the PRT mission as long as “bad guys” are still alive.
In Iraq, the success of PRTs was largely due to structuring them under the U.S. ambassador. However, in Afghanistan, PRTs are a “two-headed monster” with the civilian components reporting to the embassy and U.S. forces reporting to the brigade task force. “Infantry runs the Army,” marginalizing the impact of PRTs and making them subordinate to a kinetic force.
PRTs fall under the same guidance as the warfighter, patrolling with heavy guns and strong military presence. However, just a few years ago, PRTs, who fought to remain separated from the battle space owners, drove pick-up trucks and could walk among the community. The idea was simple: “The more risk you take, the less you are at risk.” Local people could see that the PRT was there to help, but that has long evaporated in favor of combat since the infamous surge. After all, battle space owners could not let PRTs be without their gross oversight, so they swallowed them under their commands.
By early next year, in specific areas of the East, PRTs will soon rely solely on battle space, kinetic warfighters to accomplish their mission. Throughout Afghanistan the public understands the distinction between PRT and “door kickers,” but those once clear lines are being blurred. This blending may look to save taxpayer money and reduce redundancy, but that is dependent on mission priority. With a focus on kinetics, one can expect PRTs will be left thumbing a ride and often left in the dust. Additionally, the same people who attacked Taliban, destroyed buildings and perhaps incidentally killed civilians will now transport DoS, USAID, USDA, and uniformed PRT members to some of those same villages. Although protected by the might of highly skilled and trained warriors, perhaps the civilian counterparts will look like easy targets.
Since the surge of military forces in 2009, Afghan support of U.S. presence in the country has dropped to near all-time lows. The drop seemingly corresponds to increased combat operations; additionally, there has been an increase in attacks against U.S. forces. This may be because there are more troops on the ground, but it may also have to do with decreased trust in what U.S. forces are doing in the region.
PRTs exist to strengthen trust, faith, and confidence in the Afghan and U.S. governments, while kinetic warfare seems aimed at destabilizing Taliban forces regardless of the cost. Although the cost is clear, new cuts jeopardize efforts even more.
As U.S. efforts in Afghanistan aim to return troops, Department of State and other U.S. agencies will be left “holding down the fort.” Without a strong PRT presence to remain by their side, they will instead be left “holding the bag.”
“An American Official” may be the guy sitting to your right. Or may not be. You never really know, do you?
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