Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Draft Army Handbook Wades Into Divisive Afghan Issue

Both fascinating and troubling, at the Wall Street Journal:
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Cultural Awareness:

Flashpoints/Grievances Some U.S. Troops Have Reported Regarding Afghanistan National Security Forces:

To better prepare [coalition forces] for the psychologically challenging conditions in Afghanistan, familiarize yourself with the following stressors some U.S. troops have reported concerning [Afghan security forces] behavior during previous deployments. Bear in mind that not all [coalition] troops have reported such experiences or beliefs.

Some ANSF are profoundly dishonest and have no personal integrity
ANSF do not buy-into war effort; far too many are gutless in combat
Incompetent, ignorant and basically stupid

Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [Afghan security forces]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition forces] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards green-on-blue violence.

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WASHINGTON—American soldiers should brace for a "social-cultural shock" when meeting Afghan soldiers and avoid potentially fatal confrontations by steering clear of subjects including women's rights, religion and Taliban misdeeds, according to a controversial draft of a military handbook being prepared for troops heading to the region.

The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.

"Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member," according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.

The 75-page manual, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is part of a continuing effort by the U.S. military to combat a rise in attacks by Afghan security forces aimed at coalition troops.

But it has drawn criticism from U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top military commander in Afghanistan, who aides said hasn't—and wouldn't—endorse the manual as written. Gen. Allen also rejected a proposed foreword that Army officials drafted in his name.

"Gen. Allen did not author, nor does he intend to provide, a foreword," said Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. "He does not approve of its contents."

Gen. Allen hadn't seen the proposed foreword until a portion of the handbook was called to his attention by the Journal, Col. Collins said. Military officials wouldn't spell out his precise objections. But the handbook's conclusion that cultural insensitivity is driving insider attacks goes beyond the view most commonly expressed by U.S. officials.

The version reviewed by the Journal—marked "final coordinating draft" and sent out for review in November—was going through more revisions, said Lt. Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., whose Center for Army Lessons Learned wrote the manual.

The proposed foreword was prepared by Army staff for Gen. Allen's eventual consideration, and the general's concerns will be taken into account as the military moves ahead with more revisions, he added.

The proposed handbook embraces a hotly debated theory that American cultural ignorance has sparked many so-called insider attacks—more than three dozen of which have claimed the lives of some 63 members of the U.S.-led coalition this year. The rise in insider attacks has created one of the biggest threats to American plans to end its major combat missions in Afghanistan next year and transfer full security control to Afghan forces in 2014.

Afghan leaders say Taliban infiltrators are responsible for most insider attacks. U.S. officials say the attacks are largely rooted in personal feuds between Afghan and coalition troops, though not necessarily the result of cultural insensitivity.

Last year, the U.S.-led coalition rejected an internal military study that concluded that cultural insensitivity was in part to blame for insider killings, which it called a growing threat that represented "a severe and rapidly metastasizing malignancy" for the coalition in Afghanistan.

The study was reported last year by The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. military at the time said the study was flawed by "unprofessional rhetoric and sensationalism."

The 2011 report—"A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility"—is now a centerpiece of the draft handbook's advice to soldiers heading to Afghanistan, and it is listed under the draft's references and recommended reading. The report's findings also informed the current manual for troops in Afghanistan, which was released in February, according to Gen. Perkins.

U.S. Army officials didn't make the current version of the manual available for review.
No doubt there is a cultural disconnect, which is why many conservatives have been calling for withdrawal for some time.

The full piece is also at Current.Mil-Tech.News.