The Best Defense

How the All-Volunteer Force undermined accountability in the modern U.S. military

By Capt. Kyle Packard, U.S. Army

Best Defense department of AVF issues

The adoption of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) was a subjective reaction to public opposition to the Vietnam War that has inadvertently stripped away accountability at all levels of the civil-military relationship. Although it is widely viewed as a success both inside and outside the defense establishment, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have exposed its limits. Tactically, the AVF has no peer, however, the last 11 years of war has brought to light several unforeseen strategic consequences that have created an unsustainable relationship between soldier and state.

When framing the problems that have come to define the last decade of conflict, whether it be an archaic personnel system or dishonest civil-military discourse, a lack of accountability is the common thread. When compounded with a reluctance to repeat the emotional isolation of returning Vietnam War veterans, society's disassociation with military service creates an environment where dissension is perceived as socially taboo. If the majority of America's sons and daughters served, then the development of a coherent wartime national defense strategy with a viable endgame would be mandatory, thus creating a culture of accountability. Public officials would be held responsible for both their successes and failures through either the ballot box or via civil unrest.

If there is no shared sacrifice, then there is no obligation to maintain accountability. An exclusively professional military has produced an undeniable divide between those that bear the burden of America from those that benefit from its liberties. Without a nation mobilized, absent from the fight was the influx of ingenuity deemed essential to combat ambiguous insurgent networks. Without a shared economic burden, we have soaring national debt with the potential for a balanced budget continually being shifted to the right.

The wealth and prosperity of post-World War II America has fundamentally changed the social contract between citizen and state; the government ensures the wellbeing of a large segment of society yet requires little in return. To rebalance the inequity, all citizens, or those who desire to become citizens, must serve a term of military or civil service. Mr. Ricks, in his New York Times op-ed, provides a salient solution which should serve to spark a national dialogue. I would add that the War Powers Resolution would need to be revised to require Congress to approve, in conjunction with a declaration of war, a shift towards the armed forces to meet wartime manpower demands.

The American viewpoint of compulsory military service as a government-imposed burden has not evolved with the current role of the state. While the technological and special operation requirements of a 21st century military power requires a small standing force, the sacrifices of war, both materially and psychologically, must be universally shared across society. Without unity of effort, America risks inadvertently creating a military caste that sees itself as superior to the citizens its intent is to serve.

Although today's military has not experienced the postwar pendulum swing of the Vietnam era, a lack of accountability may still hollow the force.

CPT Kyle D. Packard is an U.S. Army infantry officer assigned to Fort Campbell, KY. He has deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan with both conventional and special operations units. He plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2013.


The Best Defense

Corruption in Afghanistan: An introduction to one fine mess

By Gary Anderson

Best Defense office of foreign ethics

In 2004-5, I did a study on the future of the Taliban for Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, who was then the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. After the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, the Taliban had appeared on the run, but three years later, they were making a comeback. What I found in the study was that the Karzai government was the chief enabler of the resurgent Taliban movement. Afghan governmental corruption and incompetence was making the Taliban look good in comparison, despite years of misrule when that organization was in power. As a commander, and later as the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Eikenberry angered Afghan President Karzai by urging reform, and ultimately failed in his attempts to get Karzai to clean up his government in a meaningful way. Today, the Taliban are back in spades. This has damaged every aspect of the U.S. war effort because it affects security, governance, rule of law, and development. These are the pillars of coalition strategy in that unhappy country.

Corruption is exacerbated by the highly centralized Afghan form of government. All provincial (state) and district (county) officials are appointed by the central government in Kabul. On paper, there is nothing wrong with centralization. Many highly-developed democracies such as Japan have basically the same system. It even semi-works in Iraq. Those countries have good transportation and reliable communication systems. This allows the central government to control things that go on in governance in the provinces. None of that is true in Afghanistan. Consequently, it is nearly impossible for the Kabul government to closely monitor the performance of governance and development in the provinces, much less remove incompetent or corrupt officials.

The most pernicious corruption in our province was caused by the provincial commander of the Afghanistan National Police, the provincial prosecutor, and the director of public health. The head cop was a competent administrator, and kept the provincial capital relatively secure; however, he did so by hoarding personnel and resources badly needed by the outlying districts that he was supposed to be supervising. Outside the provincial capital, he was making a handy side-living running a protection racket for drug dealers and smugglers. Some of his handpicked appointees in my district were running extortion and burglary rings.

The prosecutor was making his money by encouraging defense lawyers from all over Afghanistan to send their wealthy clients to our province where he could guarantee light sentences or mere fines for serious offenses. The director of public health for the province, one Dr. Tariq, is a real piece of work. Over three years, he managed to misspend or divert $9 million dollars of World Bank funding, the vast majority of which was U.S.-provided.

While working at the district level, I had success in purging the worst of the bad cops in mid-level leadership positions by threatening to invite Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post to report on police corruption. This did cause the chief to replace to purge eight of them. It was a small start, but a start.

Once I got to the provincial capital as the governance advisor for the entire province, we caught a few breaks; they were caused, not by blatant corruption, but by gender issues. What finally did in the police chief was his reported rape of three female officers who had the gall to file complaints. Although they were eventually forced to retract their charges, a national uproar ensued, and the Afghan national government was embarrassed enough to reassign the top cop. However, to the best of my knowledge, he has not been held accountable for the rest of the corruption he fostered.

The prosecutor became a target because there was national level focus on the fact that many of his client protection scams were related to so-called "honor killings." In these crimes, husbands or other relatives kill a woman or girl for embarrassing the family by such heinous crimes as demanding a divorce or working outside of the house. The scrutiny was encouraged by us, and allowed our local national security directorate commander to organize a sting operation that finally jailed him. However, before he could go to trial, the former prosecutor used his connections to get permission to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Haj religious pilgrimage. To the best of my knowledge, he is still on the loose.

Despite our compiling a package on Dr. Tariq and sending it to Kabul, he is still on the job. One of the most appalling charges is that at least 11 women died in childbirth for lack of midwives that World Bank funding had provided for the hiring of such medical personnel in the last year alone.

Almost everyone in the province knew that all three of these characters were bad actors, but no one could do anything about it because they were hired and paid by Kabul. It took outside action by foreigners and the public glare of the media to do what little that we could. Until the Afghan government allows some form of local public review of provincial and district officials, the government of Afghanistan will be its own worst enemy.

Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps colonel, was a district governance advisor in Afghanistan's Badghis Province. With transition of the district to Afghan security control, he became the provincial governance and rule of law advisor.