NATO has scaled down their operations, saying joint patrols with Afghans will only go on at the battalion level [AFP]
For Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta, a recent wave of "green-on-blue" (or insider attacks) on US and NATO troops -- i.e., the Afghan version of friendly fire -- are just the "last gasp" of a bunch of frustrated Taliban.
That does remind one of Don Rumsfeld's "remnants" of Saddam's regime, who duly morphed into hardcore Sunni Iraqi guerrillas and gave hell to the US occupation.
Back to reality, even US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey had to admit, "something has to change." Only in 2012, Afghan security forces killed 51 NATO soldiers -- and counting.
That may not be much compared to scores of civilian victims, aka "collateral damage," of the shadowy CIA drone war against the Pakistani tribal areas. Not to mention the recent US raid that killed eight Afghan women and girls who were engaged in an extremely subversive plot to collect firewood.
Oh yes -- but this is "them," not "us."
Anyway, something did change. NATO's new spin on "green-on-blue" is right up the scale down alley. From now on, joint patrols or any "interaction" with Afghans will only go on at least at battalion level (which group 500 or even 800 members).
It was -- surprise! -- a unilateral Pentagon decision. No NATO partners or even the Afghans themselves were consulted.
So here's the instant spinless translation -- if any was needed.
That's the abject failure of all elaborate Western plans to set up an Afghan fighting force by embedding them with Americans and Europeans -- and then have them handle security by themselves. Even as it stands, very few Afghan units can independently engage in tactical operations.
That's the solemn erection of a far from figurative Wall of Mistrust between "us" and "them."
That's the end of a massive PR campaign -- sold to Western public opinion -- that even boasted its own Dari slogan; shohna ba shohna ("shoulder by shoulder"), as in "good" Westerners side by side with Afghans fighting the "evil" Taliban.
Moreover, what this implies is there's no soft exit strategy for the US and NATO. Sooner rather than later -- in this case December 2014 -- a Saigon moment looms in the Hindu Kush.
Take the rifle and run
Predictably, tough guy NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the deadline towards total Afghan responsibility for national security by the end of 2014 remains; the scaling down is "prudent and temporary."
In terms of losing face, Rasmussen and NATO could not possibly accept ignominious defeat and rush for the exits. Especially after Taliban supremo Mullah Omar had stated over a month ago that the Taliban "cleverly infiltrated the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year."
Even without rampant Taliban infiltration, NATO would have never been able to vet all 352,000 members of Afghanistan's army and police forces anyway. Most are Tajiks, some are Hazaras and Uzbeks, but there are Pashtuns as well, who may or may not be Taliban sympathisers, and are simply enlisting because they can earn a steady paycheque.