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Heads should roll
Posted by: McQ on Monday, December 04, 2006

The word filtering out of Afghanistan is a perfect example of why those of us who supported the war in Iraq now find ourselves criticizing the post-war effort there.

Hardly anyone disputes the necessity to go into Afghanistan given the presence of the al Qaeda hierarchy and the fact that Afghanistan's Taliban government was brazenly giving them asylum. They were (and are) the enemy and so for the most part the vast majority of Americans on both side of the political spectrum supported our incursion into that country. The fact that we routed both al Qaeda and the Taliban government and gave the Afghan people a chance to build a different country were really side benefits to the action, but benefits which should have been seized upon and of which we should have taken advantage in an effort to remove one more terrorist haven in the War on Terror.

However, as we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan is apparently suffering from the same post-war ineptitude as has Iraq.
Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

In fact, most police units had less than 50 percent of their authorized equipment on hand as of June, says the report, which was issued two weeks ago but is only now circulating among members of relevant Congressional committees.

In its most significant finding, the report said that no effective field training program had been established in Afghanistan, at least in part because of a slow, ineffectual start and understaffing.
That is simply stunning information. After 5 years and 1.1 billion dollars dedicated to a specific program (i.e. training and equipping an effective police force), a) the Afghan police can't carry our routine police work, b) they have less than 50% of the authorized equipment on hand and c) those contracted by the US to train and equip them have no idea where that equipment they did issue to police units actually is.

Now, you can argue that the real fault lies with the contract trainers. But in reality it doesn't. I lies with the US government and specifically the administration. You can possibly say that it is mostly the fault of the trainers if, for instance, Iraq was a success. But the argument falls apart when you realize that exactly the same problems exist in both countries and are at least partly responsible for the deteriorating situation in both:
The training experts say the United States made some of the same mistakes in training police forces in Afghanistan that it made in Iraq, including offering far too little field training, tracking equipment poorly and relying on private contractors for the actual training. At the same time, those experts say, the failure to create viable police forces to keep order and enforce the law on a local level has played a pivotal role in undermining the American efforts to stabilize both countries.
Never have so few screwed up so much for so many. And other than having their contracts cancelled, most likely nothing further will happen to them or the governmental agencies charged with oversight in these training endeavors. It is a culture of no accountability which fosters such egregious and dangerous failures.

To use a figure of speech that is none the less perfectly appropriate, some heads should roll, both among the contractors and those with contract oversight within the government. It is high time we punished the gross ineptitude we continue to uncover in critical situations such as these.
 
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I’m starting to fall into the "rubble doesn’t make trouble" camp. When was the last time that we build an effective police force out of nothing? Or somewhere where corruption rules?

I’d expect the Afghan military to be in better shape, if for no other reason than we have armies out of nothing and have a clue how to do that.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I can’t help but think that this is partly to blame on the fact that training police and such civic activities are not what our soldiers are trained to do, and really, nor should it, (think the military of Starship Troopers, book not movie).

But what is the solution? Is there some organization existing that should be doing this type of training? Should we training a separate part of the army to do this type of training? How do we fix this system?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Must compare with East Timor / Cambodia etc. I’m saying that’s the metric, not an excuse in any way. I think the main problem is that the WOT is not an existential threat so corruption is much easier to filter into the contracts../
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
The point was that inadequate and possibly corrupt training was provided by private contractors. Much of the failure in Iraq stems from the early over-reliance on freemarket purists who saw Iraq as a chance to try out their theories (and profiteer and appoint their friends and relatives). If we don’t learn anything else from this administration, I hope we are least learn to abjure ideology, embrace pragmatism. and recognaize that the free market is a tool, not a religion, and it is not always the best way to channel human energy into efffective action.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
ChrisB wrote:
But what is the solution? Is there some organization existing that should be doing this type of training? Should we training a separate part of the army to do this type of training?
Yeah, it’s called Army Special Forces. They are supposed to have a primary mission for training armies and police forces that are friendly to us, thus acting as a major force multiplier in irregular conflicts. That is not sexy though, and the direct action portion of their mission has loomed much larger for a long time now.

Laura wrote:
Much of the failure in Iraq stems from the early over-reliance on freemarket purists who saw Iraq as a chance to try out their theories (and profiteer and appoint their friends and relatives).
Calling government contracts managed by the DoD "free market" is about like calling a donkey a Clydesdale. Judging the value of market forces based on the government’s intervention into the market seems rather backwards to me.
 
Written By: Adam Selene
URL: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/
Much of the failure in Iraq stems from the early over-reliance on freemarket purists who saw Iraq as a chance to try out their theories
Care to explain how you reached that conclusion. Or the premise that Iraq was a free market?
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Oops, Adam beat me to it while saying it better too.

It’s like he’s not really human, but instead a supercomputer locked away underground.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
chuckles, I have an office, a description, and a memorable voice. Ergo, I’m real.
 
Written By: Adam Selene
URL: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/
Calling government contracts managed by the DoD "free market" is about like calling a donkey a Clydesdale. Judging the value of market forces based on the government’s intervention into the market seems rather backwards to me.

So, you agree that, in this case, the level of oversight the government was able to exert over private contractors under the essentially market-based system of contractual bidding was far inferior to the level of oversight the Army is able to provide directly over its own soldiers?

I’ll tell you what doesn’t matter so much as a hill of beans, sneering contempt for the DoD’s contracting operations as a "real free market". The point is that allowing private companies a cut of the deal instead of doing it right through the government resulted in a drastic efficiency, performance and accountability loss. What’s your solution?

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The point is that allowing private companies a cut of the deal instead of doing it right through the government resulted in a drastic efficiency, performance and accountability loss.
Of course that assumes it would have been done "right" through goverment, which is not at all indicated since it is government who had oversight.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
So, you agree that, in this case, the level of oversight the government was able to exert over private contractors under the essentially market-based system of contractual bidding was far inferior to the level of oversight the Army is able to provide directly over its own soldiers?
Nice job putting words in my mouth. Further, private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan were hardly awarded business under an "essentially market-based system of contractual bidding". Maybe you should spend some time researching how those contracts, under Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43, actually were awarded so that we can discuss that intelligently.

As far as the military goes, it is going to function quite well for the things it is designed to do. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ll tell you what doesn’t matter so much as a hill of beans, sneering contempt for the DoD’s contracting operations as a "real free market".
Oh please glasnost. First, that was hardly "sneering contempt", it was more like a reality check. Second, it was a response to Laura’s attempt to deride market forces and principles by holding up a market that was hardly free.

My solution would never have been to be in that position in the first place. I ask you to point to anything, anywhere, that you can find written by me, personally, that suggests anything to the contrary.

You want a solution? Fine, fire the generals who refuse to come up with solutions and spend their time back-biting the administration. Gut the Pentagon, which is the most bloated blivet yet seen in military history. Fire the administration for refusing to do anything but "stay the course", trying to fight a war on the cheap and not doing what it took to fight the war in the first place. Fire the Congress that votes for it, then votes against it. And, most importantly, never have gotten into the damn mess in the first place.

If I really had my druthers, we would have taken down Hussein in 1991.

Since none of that is possible, I would fire the whole sorry lot.
 
Written By: Adam Selene
URL: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/
Prior to the invasion Iraq wasn’t a free market. It isn’t now, either. However, in the early reconstruction phase, it was used as an experiment in the application of purist free market ideology. That’s why so many recent business school grads got leadership positions for which they were completely unprepared. The Americans offended many Iraqi officals by sending over people in their early twenties to tell Iraqis how to de-socialize their economy. For example, the Iraqis had had system for providing low cost seeds for farmers which the free-marketers tried to dismantle, to the dismay of Iraqis who understood the importance of the program to the farmers. I feel a need to point out here that the most important thing to do early in an occupation is to win hearts and minds. Throwing a bunch of farmers off their land for lack of seeds was a very stupid idea in the period immediately following the fall of one government annd the formation of another, regardless of what one might think of the program. The wet-behind-the-ears managers screwed up everything they touched with this sort of clumsiness and lack of real world knowledge. There is already extensive documentation for this sort of thing and I expect there will be more once the hearings start.
The initial post states that contractors who were supposed to train the Afgans failed to do so and that, since they were outside contractors, they can’t be held accountable for their screwups. I was agreeing with that while atttempting to put it into a context. Ideologies, like relgions, provide useful general principles as long as one doesn’t get overly compulsive about the details of application. When peole get overly committed to either an ideology or a relgion they lose their ability to process feedback and face facts.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
Of course that assumes it would have been done "right" through goverment, which is not at all indicated since it is government who had oversight.

This is true. But an awful lot of people around here argue a lot that a) The U.S. military has been doing an honorable best-effort in Iraq and that b) that honorable effort is the best any comparable entity in the world could do.

And you know what? I basically agree. Not just because it makes a good argument right here. I’m just essentially convinced that the US Army does a better job policing itself (at least given the current parameters of our socio-political environment) than the DoD does in exercising contractual oversight.

I think you agree with me, McQ.

don’t you?

If the government really can’t do *anything* right, then how would be able to laud the performance of our military? It is.. part of our government?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The initial post states that contractors who were supposed to train the Afgans failed to do so and that, since they were outside contractors, they can’t be held accountable for their screwups. I was agreeing with that while atttempting to put it into a context.
The only problem with that is that your context is incorrect. Hiring business school grads, making them part of a government program, and then trying to implement, by government fiat, a "free market" is hardly free market capitalism. It’s paternalism. The Bush Administration is hardly a bunch of free market capitalists, for that matter.

Aside from that, you appeared to be levelling your guns at the military contracting generally. And that was hardly a free market either.

Now, if you want to discuss how screwed up Pentagon contracting is, I’m all for it. But calling it free market is very deceptive, or a misunderstanding of what a free market is.

Glasnost, I agree that the US military functions much better than the rest of the US government, in terms of policing itself and supervising itself. At least at the lower levels. At the higher levels, it functions about as well as any government bureaucracy, which is to say extremely poorly. Saying that line units in the military function better than their other government counterparts, though, isn’t much of a compliment really.
 
Written By: Adam Selene
URL: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/
Nice job putting words in my mouth. Further, private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan were hardly awarded business under an "essentially market-based system of contractual bidding". Maybe you should spend some time researching how those contracts, under Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43, actually were awarded so that we can discuss that intelligently.

Actually, I’ve heard something about it. I was trying to give the Pentagon’s defenders some benefit of the doubt. The reason is, I don’t know how to fix the rampant cronyism and total mutual unaccountability between defense contractors and the Republican party, any more than you do. If the market we’re considering was that of a mid—size durable consumer good with an elastic demand curve, these drastic industry-wide quality control failures would lead to a crash in the supply requested.
However, in our current political market, where any Democratic hint of resistance to constantly increasing defense budgets gets one equated with Dennis Kuinich and sunk like a stone by the conservative media, there is no possibility of a deserved market correction, such as a drastic decrease in the defense budget, that might incentivise the DoD to squeeze contractors to actually achieve value for services rendered.

Therefore, we seem to agree that we have no idea how to fix the DoD contracting system. My suggestion is that the U.S. Army itself looks to have a lot more of a culture of accountability than the DoD. We should leverage that and give the whole task over to an explicitly public agency the next time around.

You want a solution? Fine, fire the generals who refuse to come up with solutions and spend their time back-biting the administration. Gut the Pentagon, which is the most bloated blivet yet seen in military history. Fire the administration for refusing to do anything but "stay the course", trying to fight a war on the cheap and not doing what it took to fight the war in the first place. Fire the Congress that votes for it, then votes against it. And, most importantly, never have gotten into the damn mess in the first place

Hmmm. We can sort of agree on this.

Second, it was a response to Laura’s attempt to deride market forces and principles by holding up a market that was hardly free.

I’m sorry if you found my description a tad harsh, but since perfect free markets don’t exist anywhere on earth, often the practical choice we have is between warped, semi-free markets, and an entirely non-profit-based-private-sector solution. It appears, empirically, that the entirely non-market solution would have been more efficient in this case.

Then again, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a libertarian concede this:

often the practical choice we have is between warped, semi-free markets, and an entirely non-profit-based-private-sector solution in the first place, so I’ve probably lost you already.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
If the government really can’t do *anything* right, then how would be able to laud the performance of our military? It is.. part of our government?
Oh please, glasnost, this is simply awful. It is a classic example of the black and white fallacy.

Government’s best do what?

Protect our rights. That’s why they are given the monopoly on force and they run the system of justice. That gives us unified protection and the same system of law throughout the land. That is what government does best. The military is a part of that rights protection entity. Thus far it has done those two jobs adequately and I’ve not argued otherwise.

Nor am I one of those who argues government can’t do anything right. Obviously, as a minarchist, I fundamentally believe there are particular functions best left to government (as I’ve outlined above) for various reasons.

But those aren’t the functions we’re talking about here.

What government rarely seems to do well is what I’m noting here in this post. We’re talking about governmental malfeasance in letting and overseeing contracts. This isn’t something new for government. Nor is this the first time it has happened. However, one of the reasons it continues to happen is because no one is held accountable for such malfeasance. Oh some low-level boob who can’t find anyone to hand it off too may get blamed for it and retire before he or she can be charged with anything, but name someone who has done Enron time for this sort of a debacle.

So I’m arguing for government accountability and you’re trying to build a strawman argument based on a false premise (i.e. I believe government can’t do anything right).

Do you believe, in the case cited and with the evidence provided, that government has managed this project well? If not, do you believe there should be some people within government held accountable for it’s failure?

If so, then yes, we agree. However, as to your strawman, check your premise.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Nope, you haven’t lost me. If I can get some sort of change that makes a market more free (that doesn’t sound right, but free’er doesn’t look right), I’m in favor of it. I’m not an all or nothing sort of believer. Uncle Milt had the right approach, pragmatic approaches to advancing the cause of liberty.

That said, I fail to see how you would implement a semi-free market involving the military but not the DoD? The problem is, inherently, the bloviating, bloated blivet that we call the Pentagon.

Could it be solved? Yes. Start by firing 75% of the generals and reducing their positions to not exist. In 1945 we had one general officer per 7000 non flag officer ranks. In 1993 we had one general officer per 1400 non flag officer ranks. I don’t know what the numbers are now, but probably fairly close to the 1993 numbers.

Next, return fiscal authority to commanders in the field.

Finally, send some contractors and some generals to jail. The collusion and monopolistic practices of DoD contracting are horrific.

Will this happen? Not likely as long as our choice is NeoCons or Democratic Loons.
 
Written By: Adam Selene
URL: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/
Most comparisons of Afghanistan and Iraq are apples and oranges. Afghanistan is largely a product of our alliance with NATO. The police being savaged in this article were trained by the French, Germans and Italians.

It’s not at all clear what the standard ought to be for police in these sorts of situations. They will be underarmed when compared to the military, thus can be forced to flee or surrender far easier than an army unit might. They will be locals, and subject to all the ethical issues that come with living and working in your home town.

Corruption is not unique to Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be found in police forces world-wide. I suspect that much of the training that our NATO allies provided was of the "look good in your uniforms and don’t shoot the tourists" kind.

I, for one, would be much happier to hop on this bandwagon were the Louisiana National Guard not still patrolling New Orleans.
 
Written By: Chuck Simmins
URL: http://northshorejournal.org
Oh please, glasnost, this is simply awful. It is a classic example of the black and white fallacy.

I use these sometimes. When I encounter what seems to me to be an unrealistically rigid maxim in one place, i keep it around and try to insert it in new environments where the original author tends to implicitly, or even subliminally, distance themselves from it. This is done in order to cast doubt on the original maxim in a more substantial way than can be accomplished in a direct argument.

Now, you state your position as,

Nor am I one of those who argues government can’t do anything right. Obviously, as a minarchist, I fundamentally believe there are particular functions best left to government (as I’ve outlined above) for various reasons.

and, well, fine. Maybe my construct is directed at your audience.

My sentence, below:

I’m just essentially convinced that the US Army does a better job policing itself (at least given the current parameters of our socio-political environment) than the DoD does in exercising contractual oversight

Sounds a lot like yours here:

We’re talking about governmental malfeasance in letting and overseeing contracts. This isn’t something new for government. Nor is this the first time it has happened. However, one of the reasons it continues to happen is because no one is held accountable for such malfeasance.

So, it seems we agree. However, while I’m all for hanging the people in DoD responsible for this out to dry - and, for that matter, firing every third person in the building - I don’t think that will solve the problem (partially because neither of these will happen, but not entirely).

I just think it’s fundamentally harder to exercise effective oversight on DoD contractors than it would be to exercise such oversight on the army.

In other words, the US Army, or some semi-paraellel Civil Corps like we have discussed, should be in charge of this. This shouldn’t be farmed out to contractors at all. Certainly not in situations where enormous, strategic-level tasks are to given over to enormous firms in industries with inherently minimal compteition.

It’s not just the legendary political cronyism of the BushAdmin, although that helps. It’s also just that there’s a inherent limit to the control you can subcontract out and retain a coherent, accountable. project. We’ve gone well past it. The limit needs to swing back.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Most comparisons of Afghanistan and Iraq are apples and oranges. Afghanistan is largely a product of our alliance with NATO. The police being savaged in this article were trained by the French, Germans and Italians.
Well yeah, except for the fact we let the contract and we spent the money.

Seems pretty apples to apples to me (seeing as we’re training Iraqi Police in Jordan and some of our European allies are participating there as well).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Actually I didn’t reride market forces. I derided overindulgence in ideology. Also I didn’t hold up an economy as being an example of anyting in particular. My point was that this administration’s mistakes and incompetent acts are often rooted in the desire to apply ideology without allowing for enough feedback from reality. Contracting out services which are essential for the success of a mission, on the apparent assumption that a hired company will do the job better than an branch of the government, is an example of this.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
Oops, that was supposed to be "deride", not "reride"!

The point about paternalism is good. I’m not willing to let the Bush administration off the ideological hook, however, because the goal was quite overtly to use Iraq as a test case to show how freemarket principles could work. But I’ve strayed from the point which was about thhe conntradctors in Afganistan.
 
Written By: laura
URL: http://
The program cannot say where the trucks are - this means that once they hand the trucks over, they disappear or the Afghan police don’t do well at paperwork. Does this suprise anyone? While a better program or more competent managers could possibly do better, I can easily envisage that even a superstar manager in Kabul wouldn’t be able to control what the Afghan police decide to do with their vehicles. Do we control their pay directly? Probably not. Do we control the police directly, probably not. Like in Iraq, we might have been too easily swayed by the "sovereignty, elections, and local rulers ASAP" argument.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
"I’m starting to fall into the "rubble doesn’t make trouble" camp."

Absolutely. Rubble doesn’t make trouble, it’s the press coverage of the rubble that does.
******************

"Yeah, it’s called Army Special Forces...."

Bingo. What ChrisB said.
And let us not forget all those Civil Affairs and military government units and personnel that we spent so much time and money training.

******************

Does the word "carpetbagger" have any resonance here? There is a reason why the US military took over the job of running conquered countries. Isn’t there something called "Lessons Learned" that is supposed help educate military officers and, via their advice, the civilian leaders? Obviously studying(or at least remembering) those lessons is "honoured more in the breach than in the practice". Evidently spending money and resources on Iraq and Afghanistan is the only place in several pork-stuffed budgets that the Bush administration felt the need to economise. Another shining example of "false economy".

***********************

"Could it be solved? Yes. Start by firing 75% of the generals and reducing their positions to not exist"

Sadly, I must say that, as with any purgative, relief is only temporary. The nature of the beast dictates that that bloating, gassy condition will reoccur.

********************
"Finally, send some contractors and some generals to jail."

Would that we could. I know of one case where a junior officer, convicted by general court and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, was not imprisoned because suitable accomodations for an officer were not available. There was also another notable case of a junior officer given house arrest in place of prison. Think of Abu Ghraib. American Generals do not go to jail.
On the other hand, maybe we could contract out the military justice system(at least for officers). Court appointed defense counsel provided by the low bidder, confinefient facilities and catering provided by the low bidder, etc. Use the corruption to police the corruption. It might have a deterrent effect.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
KABUL, Afghanistan -
Afghanistan’s police, who are often paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting, frequently force those in custody to buy their freedom, a "bribe and release" arrangement undermining the government’s legitimacy, a new U.S. report finds.

Police, who earn about $70 a month, routinely are paid less, because senior officers skim from subordinates’ salaries, the joint report by the inspector generals of the State and Defense departments found.

The report calls the U.S.-funded program to train and equip the Afghan police "generally well conceived and well executed" but concludes that the police force’s readiness to carry out law enforcement duties is "far from adequate."

Among obstacles facing the $1.1 billion training program: illiterate police recruits, a history of low pay and pervasive corruption, and inadequate accountability for equipment after it is turned over to the Afghans, the report said.

Joanna Nathan, the Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit research group, said the training and quality of Afghanistan’s police force has been one of the international community’s biggest failings.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
and note, that if you hand over the program to the military that they do not control the Afghan police either. This is not an issue of corruption within the contract, but AFTER the stuff is handed over to a sovereign entity. Oh, there might be better ways to track and audit these things if it were worth the cost of keeping a high salaried team of incorruptible foreigners on the job, maybe SGS, etc.?

BTW, Peru and Indonesia at times in the past had to resort to not using their own customs agents at all and instead hiring SGS to do the job. I would guess SGS did a much better job (though they too have corruption.)
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
"...it would have been done "right" through goverment, which is not at all indicated since it is government who had oversight"

==
On C-Span:
During a congressional hearing about mercenaries and personnel contracted from private companies for Iraq, the answers to questions about what authority or rules they are expected to follow, the answers from the military and the DOD consisted largely of confused mumblings and a lot of shrugging of shoulders. There didn’t even seem to be much coordination about the terms of the contracts from one company to another.

The contractors all bragged that they had their rules, but whether those rules meshed with US military policy was mostly side-stepped.

The impression this hearing left was that no one was in charge of anythying.

Regarding how military actions were coordinated between the US military and mercenaries, it seemed to be on a unit by unit basis, dependting on the people in charge of the two factions.

There were comments afterwards that most of the information about particulars is classified.

 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://

 
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