November 10, 2010

Afghan deployment #4 update

UPDATE to the previous piece: reportedly the U.S. is pushing for a more combative role for us, with Canadians deployed primarily or at least prominently as police mentors. I don't believe the article is correct here, though: "NATO commanders say they need trainers in classrooms, too they identified a shortfall of about 900 a month ago, and officials say the shortfall is now about 750."

That's the forecast shortfall for NTM-A (NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan) as a whole, I believe, not just "classroom trainers". NTM-A's strength (which must be close to 10,000 authorized personnel) includes both the trainers and battlefield mentors (although mentors are under operational control of ISAF IJC, they fall under the NTM-A ration strength). The upshot is that if Canadians were to join NTM-A with a "behind the wire" caveat in large numbers, they'd likely be supplanting soldiers from other countries (primarily the U.S.) in the safer billets, who would then shift to cover the mentoring responsibilities.

There are large issues with running operational mentoring teams in areas where you don't have main force units or established infrastructure, like the Canadians do in Kandahar right now. Mobility is one obvious one. If you start bringing Canadian vehicles, you have to have that whole maintenance and recovery infrastructure behind them... if you borrow U.S. ones, you need to train a lot of drivers. The same goes for weapons, clothing, and on and on: either you're generally relying on the "land owner" unit for that area for all kinds of support, or you end up recreating a national support capability at the nearest large base for yourself. The twin competing risks are that you end up with a very small number of actual usable soldiers compared to the support "tail" or that we revisit the World War One debate of having Canadian soldiers being broken up into small subunits within another nation's army.

UPDATE: Just some ballpark figures. As of Oct/10, NTM-A had a requirement for about 180 ANA OMLT teams (say 20 personnel each) and 475 ANP POMLT teams (again, say 10 each). Say the total NTM-A total strength is 10,000. So at absolute most you're looking at 1,500 "inside the wire" jobs in the entire country. If the proposal is to lay claim to over half of those, basically the majority of all the "behind the wire" training jobs in the Kabul area in other words, in competition with the rest of NATO, that would seem likely to meet some kind of pushback.

Posted by BruceR at 11:39 PM