December 02, 2009
Today's essential Afghan reading
But the far more worrying prospect is the quality of the Afghan troops and officers. While many Afghans have demonstrated an eagerness to fight the Taliban, the Afghan Army and police have shown themselves unable to maintain themselves in the field, to purge their ranks of corruption, to mount operations at night or to operate any weapon more complicated than a rifle.
One example often cited by American trainers: the bureaucratic skills and literacy levels necessary to administer a large force have not materialized, even after years of mentoring. When it comes to paying their soldiers, keeping them fed, providing them with ammunition and equipment, tracking who is on leave and who is injured, most Afghan units perform very poorly. These tasks — essential to the readiness of any army — are almost invariably performed by American or NATO soldiers.
Indeed, American trainers often spend large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters are accurate — that they are not padded with "ghosts" being "paid" by Afghan commanders who quietly collect the bogus wages.
"The focus of the training program has always been 'more soldiers' at the expense of quality training," said an American involved in training Afghan forces, who demanded that his name be withheld because he was still working with Afghan soldiers. "There are no 'tests.' A soldier does not have to master any task prior to graduating. Attendance equals graduation."
All too, too true, sadly. Without a competent Afghan army, the President's plans last night cannot succeed, and he will likely be held to one term. And that depends on a marked improvement in the effectiveness of Western military mentoring, which is now officially all I ever talk about. It's interesting, being courtside on history being made, like this. Anyway, stay tuned; this ride is just getting interesting.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex