Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It’s a necessary part of counter-insurgency to search people, cars, homes, sheep, bicycles, whatever. Unfortunately, the law and the culture restrict the effectiveness of our searches. If the ANA set up a vehicle checkpoint they’ll do a reasonably thorough search of the car and its occupants…unless the car has women in it. Women are never asked to get out of the car and are never searched. Since the women are covered in burqas, we really don’t have any way of knowing if they are in fact women, and since it’s common knowledge that we don’t search women or even make them get out of the vehicle, we’ve left open a huge gap for anyone trying to smuggle contraband.

As the culture restricts our searches of cars and individuals, the law restricts our ability to search homes…i.e. we can’t. The ANA cannot go into homes and search them unless there are no Afghan National Police (ANP) in that region (as is sometimes the case in the more dangerous areas). I understand in theory it’s better to have police searching homes rather than soldiers since police are (ideally) trained a bit better in legal procedures and in how to handle civilians. But given the tenuous state of security in Afghanistan at this time, it seems a little unrealistic and idealistic to have already created such a legal divide between the ANA and ANP. When the country no longer depends on foreign troops for its security would seem to be the time to start adding legal protections and procedures at the expense of security and effectiveness. It may not seem like a big deal…just bring the ANP along to do the searches…but it really does create problems because we don’t necessarily trust the ANP, the ANP are not as well trained as the ANA, and the simple fact that anytime you add another entity to an operation things just get more complicated.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog today, and I read though nearly every post. Someone I care about is an ETT in Afghanistan, and its nice to get a glimpse of what his life is like while I'm waiting for him to come home. Thank you for sharing.

SA said...

Thanks very much for your comment. It's rewarding to know people other than myself are getting something out of this.