It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself.
by DAVID AXE
By now it’s a cliche of the Afghanistan war that the Afghan police are the most, ahem, problematic of the major Afghan security forces. The Afghan cops in Baraki Barak prove that it’s not just a stereotype. On October 20, the military police platoon attached to Able Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, rolled out with some Afghan cops to set up two “hasty traffic check points.” The idea being to randomly search some passing cars for illegal weapons. Also, to show the Afghan cops how it’s done.
At a road just a few miles from the troop’s combat outpost, the MPs strung out two lengths of razor wire, in a sort of channel running parallel to the road. The plan was for one cop, standing in the road, to flag down a few cars and direct them into the channel, where two more cops would stop the cars and search them.
The cops didn’t quite grasp the plan. The guys who were supposed to be stopping and searching the cars in the razor-wire channel instead just waved them through — as if that were the whole point. In other words, instead of searching cars, the cops were just diverting them — and only by about ten feet. The drivers just smiled and waved, like they were on some kind of budget ride at the Baraki Barak county fair.
“So they understand what’s going on here?” platoon sergeant Robert Delahanty asked 2nd Lieutenant Gregory Avant. Clearly, no.
“Some of the guys are eagles,” Delahanty said later, referring to the Afghan cops. “There are a lot of turkeys.” Still, he advised patience. “They’ve come a long way. They’re not just a gang anymore.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re real police, either.
(Photo: David Axe)
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