In this era of 21st Century counterinsurgent warfare, victory will lie in our ability to provide a better future for the everyday Afghan citizen. Most importantly, we need to build a safe environment for Afghan families to build their own future. There are not enough American soldiers, sailors and Marines in our entire armed forces to provide this security. Even if there were, we do not have the resources, desire, or the support of the Afghan people to stay in Afghanistan forever.
Thus, it is imperative that we help to build an Afghan army and police force so that they can protect their own people and provide a long-lasting, stable environment. Not all of our troops are on the front lines in Afghanistan. Many are working very hard to help the Afghan people in ways that are not reported by the media. We only hear that there are large numbers of deserters and that the Afghan army can not operate on its own. While true today, what has not been reported is that the Americans and Afghans are working together to build a new Afghan army – a capable and professional organization that will be able to provide stability in its nation.
An army cannot be built overnight. It must be built one leader at a time. It is easy to recruit privates, but very difficult to produce competent sergeants and captains. So, behind the scenes, there is a huge unreported effort to build that capability.
I recently spoke with Brigadier General Gary Patton. He is the deputy commander-Army, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command. We talked about the ongoing work to build the new Afghan army. “…what we do is generate and sustain and develop leaders for the Afghan National Army.” General Patton told the participants of the July 2nd Blogger’s Roundtable:
Since the time NTMA stood up in November 2009, to give you an idea of the amount of forces that have been generated — and by that I mean created from scratch, brand-new units, and then added to the Afghan National Army have been one corps headquarters, five brigade headquarters, 13 infantry battalions, three support battalions for logistics, two commando battalions, 42 infantry companies and four special forces teams. In addition, there have been some MP companies and some various other units, but those are the big units.
He went on to say:
And now, just in the past month …we saw a growth in the Afghan army of 4,191. And that puts them at a total strength of 129,885. That number is significant because it’s more than 6,000 above the milestone…And many of you know that our growth milestone for the end of October is 134,000; so we’re within about 4,000 of meeting the end-of-October milestone, which means we’re ahead of schedule in terms of growing the Afghan army.
Numbers alone will not improve the effectiveness of the Afghan army. General Patton admits that there is a continuing shortfall in commissioned and non-commissioned officers. The Afghan army must have leaders. Developing competent leadership is tough when only 14% of the Afghan population is literate. So, in addition to training soldiers, NTMA is also providing literacy training. All recruits receive basic literacy training and the top ten percent are sent to an additional four weeks of literacy and military training. Graduates of the Team Leader course are promoted to corporal.
If a recruit shows leadership potential and he can pass a literacy test at the third-grade level, he is enrolled in 12 weeks of additional training in the 1-U course. These NCOs graduate as staff sergeants. Patton told us:
Four weeks from now we’ll see about 3,300 new NCOs. And then we’ll repeat that over and over again. And so by doing that, combined with battlefield promotions…we hope to make up that 12,000 NCO deficit, as we grow the army, by about October or November of 2011.
A strong, capable Afghan army will take increasingly more responsibility for the security of the Afghan people. As that happens, American troops can reduce their combat operations and transition to a supporting role until we are confident that the Afghan army can operate independently and in a professional manner. Then, and only then, can we begin to draw down our force in Afghanistan. If all this sounds familiar, it is exactly what we accomplished in Iraq.
Already, we are seeing combined Coalition/Afghan successes. On July 4th, the IJC Public Affairs Office reported:
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), along with ISAF partners recently completed several operations across Afghanistan. These operations were intended to protect the Afghan population by disrupting insurgents’ ability to fund and conduct operations against civilians, ANSF, and Coalition forces.
On Thursday morning, an ANSF-led patrol came under attack from insurgents as they entered a remote village in southern Helmand. A large number of insurgents were killed and the patrol discovered 5,700 kilograms of narcotics, large weapons caches complete with ammunition, and IED construction and storage facilities. The narcotics were destroyed before they could be sold to fund insurgent attacks, along with the weapons, ammunition, IEDs and IED components. Additionally, a Taliban detention facility was discovered and 14 Afghan civilians were freed and protected by the ANSF-led patrol, while several insurgents were detained. No women or children were present in the village.
On Friday, an ANSF, ISAF combined force stopped a vehicle at a check point in Ghazni province. Thirteen 107mm rocket warheads were seized and destroyed before they could be used against Afghan civilians, ANSF, or Coalition forces.
Early Saturday morning, the senior Taliban commander for Nad-e-Ali district was killed in an ANSF and ISAF combined operation. The insurgent was known to have planned and conducted numerous suicide and roadside bombings against the Afghan people.
“These partnered operations were aimed directly at denying insurgents the funding and material they need to carry out attacks against Afghan civilians, ANSF, and international forces,” said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, an ISAF Joint Command spokesman.
No civilians were injured in any of these operations.
We still have a long road ahead in Afghanistan, but if we continue our commitment, we will start seeing more and more successes. And with those successes, we will bring security and hope to the Afghan people. And, hope is the weapon that will win this war.Read the full post and comments »