Alone amongst the press corps deployed to the Sand Box, New York Times gun blogger C.J. Chivers has exposed the abject ineffectiveness of Afghanistan’s home-grown army and police force. Not to mention the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have wasted on attempting to arm and train same. Reading his latest dispatch is like listening to someone arguing with himself. Chivers chronicles the renewed effort to create an effective fighting force with something bordering on enthusiasm. And then contrasts it with pessimistic (i.e. realistic) assessments. And then cheers up. And then goes back to the dark side. Check it out . . .
Long a lagging priority, the plan to produce many more highly trained Afghan troops is moving this fall at a rapid pace.
Two main training sites — the Kabul Military Training Center, used principally by the Afghan Army, and the Central Training Center, used by the police — have become bustling bases, packed with trainers and recruits, and there is a sense among the officers that they are producing better soldiers than before.
The military center has been graduating 1,400 newly trained soldiers every two weeks, as the Obama administration, eager to show progress in a slow-going war, has devoted more trainers and money to the effort.
Sense and sensibility, then. Yes, well, optimism may be breaking out all over, but there are plenty or reasons not to be cheerful, Part 2.
At the small-unit level, Western troops and journalists have documented their corruption, drug use, mediocre or poor fighting skills and patterns of lackluster commitment, including an unwillingness to patrol regularly and in sizable numbers, or to stand watch in remote outposts.
At the higher levels, Western military officers often describe patronage, favoritism and an absence of managerial acumen, rooted in part in the pervasive culture of corruption and in widespread illiteracy. (Now, 14 percent of the combined force can read or write — at the third-grade level.)
There is also a strong worry about Taliban infiltration into the ranks, especially among the police.
So . . . that sucks, right? But that was then (i.e. the last ten years). This is now!
“Basically, there is a big change in training, the quality of the training,” said Brig. Gen. Aminullah Patyani, the commander of the Kabul Military Training Center . . .
Col. John G. Ferrari, a deputy commander of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, spoke of an “inevitability factor,” in which local security forces, in theory and if trained properly, rise in quantity, skill and state of equipment, sharply tilting the war in the government’s favor.
Chivers goes on to describe the attrition bedeviling U.S. and NATO efforts to increase Afghan troop levels. To grow the army by 36,000 soldiers, the government must recruit and train 83,000 Afghans. For the police hit its target of 14,000 more cops, it’s got to train 50,000 more recruits. And guess who gets to pay for all of that?
As they head down the home stretch, U.S. forces and their allies are aware of the long-ignored accountability issue. And they’re doing their level best to deal with it.
Even as these deadlines approach, many officers have spoken of managing expectations.
Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio, the Italian officer who commands the police development effort, said that NATO had made practical steps toward police competence, and that training had improved.
But developing a well-rounded police officer, much less a well-rounded force, takes many years — perhaps much longer than America and other NATO nations have the patience for. “We believe we are on the right path,” General Burgio said. “We need time. Without time, without patience, it is impossible.”