U.S. Commanders Want More Firepower for Afghan Border Police

Former Defense Tech editor Christian Lowe is embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan through June 1 and sends us this dispatch from FOB Salerno near the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

American troops fighting along the Pakistan border have shifted their emphasis from interdicting insurgent forces flowing through the porous border to hunting down enemy elements as they lay up and refit in towns nearby. The job of patrolling the border is increasingly being put at the feet of the Afghan Border Police who man remote outposts perched on the hills overlooking the approaches from Taliban hotbeds like Miramshah.

But increasingly, American units recognize that the border police are in some cases outgunned, patrolling around in unarmored pickups with nothing more than AK-47s and pistols to fend off aggressive assaults by well armed insurgents.

One official at a briefing DT sat in on today at the command post for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team at FOB Salerno in Khost, Afghanistan, said some of the border policemen are reluctant to go to work because of it. So units here are pushing higher command to either pair Afghan army units with the border police at some outposts, or start outfitting those vulnerable outposts with heavier weapons and protection.

What commanders here want is to equip some of these outposts with 81mm mortars, Russian made DShKa heavy machine guns and up-armored Humvees outfitted with Mk-19 grenade launchers so they can at least have a chance to counter any assault from insurgents trying to overrun that speed bump as they transit to the fight in Afghanistan. Call it evening the odds.

Of course there’s reluctance at the top (both in the US command and the Afghan government) to outfit anyone other than the ANA with that kind of firepower. So commanders here are arguing that you don’t have to give that kind of firepower to every border police unit, just those in hot areas. Arming yet another force to the teeth in a country as unstable as Afghanistan clearly has its risks, but hanging lightly armed border police out to dry is fast becoming a non-starter as well.

— Christian Lowe

  • TMB

    “Former DT Editor Christian Lowe.”

    Former? What did I miss?

  • Brian

    So by abandoning the border we made it harder to protect the cities …. but that means our strategy was doomed from the beginning …..

    I guess thats what happens when a community organizer decides military strategy

    • Zerobot

      The mfilitary is responsible for creating strategies. Any harsh words for the generals and their staffs?

    • Thomas Curley

      Community Organizer along with General Mc Crystal. If Mc Crystal disagrees with the Stratagy and tactics he can always resign.

      • Thomas Curley

        Sorry about the spelling I did a Community Organizer rather than spell check.

  • blight

    I think we need to rethink just what “police” need in terms of armaments.

    If there is a fear of the police turning into death squads, even giving them assault rifles is enough to cause problems (look at the Interior Ministry of Iraq during the death squad days).

    Those cops need heavy weapons because they’re fighting heavily armed foes. We are used to cops not needing a great deal of firepower on the patrol beat. Post 9/11 there is an increase of guys with assault rifles and such, but our police do not fight enemies that attack police stations in platoon sized formations, launch bait suicide attacks and followup attacks to hit police; or have to face opponents armed with assault rifles, RPGs, mortars that blend into the population and kill your fellows at night.

    Give them what they need for the job, not what we think they need based on our police experience which is positively Green Zone by comparison. And to be realistic, the insurgents will likely have access to mortars and grenade launchers from Pakistan, but by comparison any equipment they can steal from ANA or Afghan Police is likely to be newer and more reliable. Many insurgencies have armed themselves off of the arsenals of the governments trying to destroy them-just look at the Communists during the Chinese Civil War. In the end most of their arsenal was built on what we gave the Nationalists.

    • Brian

      Well, I agree that they need that sort of equipment. The problem is, we don’t really trust them. The fear is that they’ll be just as likely to sell that stuff to the insurgents as they would be to fight against them.

      Unfortunately, the solution to the problem in Afghanistan is neither quick nor easy. We have to build up the trust of the population, develop a workable infrastructure, build a loyal and effective police force, as well as a loyal and effective military, create a non-corrupt government, and do this all when we’ve got people actively trying to kill us. It is a hard job. We’re trying to create a stable nation out of nothing. It is hard to create a 21st century nation in a place that has never had roads.

      • http://twitter.com/Earlydawn @Earlydawn

        Ain’t it the truth? How many otherwise bottom-tier insurgents did we give a professional warrior’s education in Iraq through the Iraqi Police or U.S. advisory teams? We must fight corruption in the Afghan government before we fight radical Islam.

        • Blight

          There is that, but the alternative is Americans doing all the fighting. By comparison, how many Iraqis remained loyal to the government/Americans?

  • Max

    easy say than done.

  • deane gilmour

    sounds much like the United State Border Patrol, especially along the southern border desert lands.

  • Locarno

    “Of course there’s reluctance at the top (both in the US command and the Afghan government) to outfit anyone other than the ANA with that kind of firepower.”

    So second them into the ANA or deploy Army manpower at the border posts.

    • blight

      Deploy army manpower sounds pretty swell. I hope the services don’t have rivalry issues.

  • NeoConVet

    As we continue the journey of trying to make a nation out of tribal society where the only control of a gov’t is the line of sight from a HQ in Kabul… history suggests that the end result is already known.