Yesterday, almost 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Afghanistan’s largest prison. How did they do it? By digging 1,000 to 1,200 feet of tunnels that emerged underneath the prison.
I believe the Taliban has been watching too many American movies, as this scene could be a modern-day ‘Great Escape’.
But as clever as it may be that the Taliban were able to pull this off, it has enormous implications for the counterinsurgency efforts in the country. Not only does it mean that more Taliban fighters return to their posts to continue their insurgency against our troops, but it also raises concerns regarding the Afghan government’s ability to provide basic functions of governance.
Let me start by recognizing that part of the blame goes on American forces. Apparently they had spent ‘months trying to improve the physical security’ of the prison. Perhaps they should have also considered installing concrete flooring as well. But seriously, their efforts proved to be insufficient. However, there comes a point when Afghan personnel need to step their game up.
Basic COIN doctrine recognizes that it is better to allow the host nation to accomplish a task tolerably than for you to do it perfectly (T.E. Lawrence). FM 3-24 recognizes the importance of this maxim. But the key word is ‘tolerably’. It is not tolerable to allow enemy prisoners to escape. As Mr. Agha Lalai Dastageri, a provincial councilman in Kandahar, noted “This clearly shows the weakness of the government and the security forces, and if this doesn’t change, the prison breaks will happen again and again.”
Is there a point at which a third party involved in a counterinsurgency recognizes that it picked a poor government to support? Until the Afghan government can prove that they are ready to take over control of their country, the U.S. will have to continue to be involved in the country. With events such as this occurring, the situation is not promising for a U.S. withdrawal any time soon.