Afghan Army issue

Strategypage and an interesting outlook on why we can’t grow the Afghan Army.  Give it a look.

Then there is the illiteracy problem (most recruits, like most Afghans, can’t read). Afghanistan is finding that illiteracy is a growing problem in the army. Only about 25 percent of recruit are literate. While this can be ignored for the lower ranking troops, NCOs need to read. Illiterate recruits also take longer to train, and more effort to work with. The U.S. has provided an intensive literacy course for troops, which gets most of them to basic (“functional”) literacy within a year. In addition to being able to read signs and maps, the newly semi-literate troops are taught to sign their names, and write out the serial number of their weapon. Illiterate troops selected for promotion to sergeant (NCO), are given more literacy training. That’s because being able to read and write has long been a critical asset for any army. The Roman Empire, at its height 1800 years ago, had an army over 100,000 troops, a third of which were literate. But with modern armies, an abundance of technology makes literacy even more necessary. The Afghans can get by without it, but can do a lot better with it.

Having been there and worked with the ANA it seems pretty accurate and something not often heard in the everyday analysis of Afghanistan.

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15 thoughts on “Afghan Army issue

  1. You mean John Kerry hasn’t worked with the ANA???? Or any indiginous forces for that matter!!!! This is who we’re trusting for accurate informationa and analysis, vs. Gen McCrystal, the ground forces commander and COIN expert? Really???

  2. JB,

    It isn’t as if the ANA soldiers don’t want to be literate. The problem is that ISAF and the international community has refused to educate them.

    The number of ANA being trained at any given point of time remains abysmally low.

  3. JB, I got this article through a google search. Could I ask you to describe your experiences with the ANA?

    Some back of the envelope calculations suggest that the ANA might only be training 12,000 ANA raw recruits at any given point of time; and only 3,000 ANA officers/NCOs. This is wholly insufficient. ISAF has grossly under-resourced the ANSF and CSTC-A/NTM-A.

    I would increase the ANA raw recruits being trained at any given point of time to 30,000, while increasing boot camp to more than 10 weeks.

    The number of officers/NCOs being trained at any given point of time needs to be 20,000. {Note that officer/NCO training cycles are far longer, so that the number of NCO/officers being trained per year will be about one fifth the number of ANA privates being trained per year.}

    Russia, India, China and Indonesia need to be brought in. China and Indonesia on the ANP side. Hell, I would try to bring Iran in.

  4. Anan let me think on this a bit. My experience was in 2002-2003 and the ANA was very young then. I do think they are trainable but they are not trainable in the traditional methods. It’s a lot of show and tell and giving them examples they can relate to. There will definately need to be more trainers and more training areas.

    Training NCO and Officers will be a challenge as literacy is a huge issue.

    This issue I see is a commitment to put the time, resources and manpower in place to do the job. This however does not address the corruption in the govenment and struggle for power amongst warlords and government officials or the drug issues.

  5. Notice the long training cycles implied for the officers/NCOs in the top calculation. Average training would be more than three times as long for officers/NCOs compared to privates to achieve a 1/6 (NCO + officer)/ANA ratio. The reason the training cycles are so long, is because literacy training is included in the training cycle for NCOs/officers.

    There are three major ISAF priorities as I see them:
    1) improved security in the short run (achieved through joint ANSF/ISAF operations)
    2) increased Afghan capacity over the medium term (ANSF, civilian Afghan institutions)
    3) increased Afghan economic growth in the long run so that the GIRoA increasingly has the tax revenue to pay for increased Afghan capacity over the long run

    What we have been discussing only deals with part of (2), the part that deals with ANSF capacity. Many different challenges need to be worked simultaneously.

    On Afghan civilian institutions; my preferred way would be to identify capable GIRoA national ministries, provincial governments, district governments, and Afghan NGOs. Give money international funding and mentoring to the competent ones. Starve the especially corrupt, and incompetent ones. Afghan NGOs should only get funding if no competent GIRoA institutions can be found to provide a certain function.

    Bring in a civilian surge of tens of thousands of foreigners (many Westerners, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, Arabs, Central Asians, Iranians and others) to mentor GIRoA agencies and Afghan NGOs.

    The Afghans will I think need $250 billion in international grants over 20 years, much of which will be given by countries other than the US:
    -$120 billion for the ANSF ($6 billion/year)
    -$130 billion for the GIRoA -ANSF ($6.5 billion/years)

  6. I would probably have an issue with importing Chinese and Iranians since both are actively working against US interest and the Iranians are active in attacks against US forces.

    Education is a key to Afghanistan coming out of the Tribal metality and at this point only in key cities is there any form of education.

    Interesting points however and worthy of consideration and discussion.

  7. Where in the world is China working “against US interests”? Chinese and US global economic interests coincide almost completely.

    Today China is Afghanistan’s largest investor and trading partner. The Taliban, with their involvement in Xinjiang province pose a bigger threat to China than to America. Al Qaeda released a video less than one month ago calling for a terrorist attack against China.

    It is time that China was called out on free riding on American blood and treasure to protect Chinese interests.

    On Iran; yes Khamenei hates America. But Al Qaeda linked Jundullah (which is very closely linked to LeJ and Sipah e Sahaba; the supreme leader of both groups is Osama Bin Laden) just launched a terrorist attack that killed the head of the IRGC Kuds force (equivalent of the Iranian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and CIA director), along with many other Iranian civilians.

    The Taliban and Al Qaeda linked networks pose a larger threat to Iran than the US. Iran is a big supporter of Karzai (who they pushed to become Afghanistan’s president in 2001 at Bonn), Abdullah, Fahim, Dostum, Ishmael Khan, Yunus Qanuni and most other important Afghan politicians.

    Iran nearly went to war with the Taliban twice between 1997 and 2001. The Taliban and Osama Bin Laden have massacred large numbers of Shiite muslims, including Iranians, on many occasions.

    It tragic that Americans seem willing to let the Iranians free ride on American blood and treasure.

    I would note that Iran offered to train 20,000 ANA under “US COMMAND.” The condition to accept Iranian help has to be that Iranian trainers must be under NTM-A/CSTC-A command. NTM-A = Nato Training Mission – Afghanistan.

    Russia has also repeatedly offered to train the ANA and ANP (including during Obama’s visit to Moscow this year), however, Afghans are reluctant to accept Russian help; so in practice Russian assistance needs to be inconspicuous.

  8. JB, good or not, why not bring the Iranians in? Remember all the times Karzai went to Iran, treated Khamenei like the second coming, and thanked Iran for helping liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban? Well let the Iranians “actually” help liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban.

    Right now Khamenei is laughing it up, because he got America to take out his two most dangerous enemies: Taliban/Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein.

    Doesn’t it bother you that Iran gets to be the good guy in the Afghan press, by offering to help the ANA and ANP, but then doesn’t “ACTUALLY” have to do anything afterwords? Even worse, they blame America for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, arguing to gullible Afghans that America secretly backs them, that they are former CIA assets (true, unfortunately.) There is a lot of anger among Afghans about the numbers of Afghan civilians, ANA and ANP getting killed by the Taliban. {The ANA in particular is very popular.} Iran now says variations of:

    “we offered to help your ANSF, but bad America keeps stopping us. This is because America secretly wants to Taliban to keep mass murdering your beloved ANA and ANP. If America would just let us help, we would help your ANSF smash the Taliban.” Many Afghans believe these Iranian talking points JB, including many of the most viscerally anti Taliban and anti Al Qaeda Afghans. Anti Al Qaeda anti-Americanism is a big problem.

  9. Problem one, besides the obvious problems with Iran, We need competed and consitant training. This will not happend with a hap-hazard group of countries with completely different methods and competency levels themselves. To think Iran or a number of other states would do anything that end the end would help the US is not logical.

    Thanks for the input though.

  10. Iran won’t help America, but they might help Iran. The Taliban and AQ linked terrorist pose a great threat to Iran, especially if they get WMD from Pakistan. The reason Iran couldn’t invade Afghanistan in 1998 after the Mazar e Sharif massacre of Shiites and Iranians, was the Pakistani nuclear protective shield over the Taliban.

    “We need competed and consitant training. This will not happend with a hap-hazard group of countries with completely different methods and competency levels themselves.” True. Inconsistent training by different countries has been stated publicly as a major problem by the Afghan National Army Join Chiefs; and I suspect the Afghan Ministry of Interior feels likewise. This is why all training of the ANSF should be under the command and control of CSTC-A/NTM-A, including any Iranian contribution. The Russians seem good with contributing through CSTC-A/NTM-A; the road block there is the Afghans.

    JB, what countries do you think should do more in Afghanistan? Presumably you think the South Koreans and Japanese should contribute substantially to CSTC-A/NTM-A. What other countries do you think should contribute?

  11. “To think Iran or a number of other states would do anything that end the end would help the US is not logical.” Sorry to break it to you bro, but America is only one fifth of global GDP and shrinking. We simply are not as important to foreigners as we like to dream ourselves to be to assuage our egos. Other countries are primarily not in Afghanistan to “please America,” but to resist Takfiri extremists. They are there because they believe that a GIRoA/ANSF victory against the Taliban benefits them.

    Right now, other countries are using America to advance their own national interests. If we are okay with that; so be it.

  12. “JB, I got this article through a google search. Could I ask you to describe your experiences with the ANA?

    Some back of the envelope calculations suggest that the ANA might only be training 12,000 ANA raw recruits at any given point of time; and only 3,000 ANA officers/NCOs. This is wholly insufficient. ISAF has grossly under-resourced the ANSF and CSTC-A/NTM-A.

    I would increase the ANA raw recruits being trained at any given point of time to 30,000, while increasing boot camp to more than 10 weeks.

    The number of officers/NCOs being trained at any given point of time needs to be 20,000. {Note that officer/NCO training cycles are far longer, so that the number of NCO/officers being trained per year will be about one fifth the number of ANA privates being trained per year.}”

    Anan, you’ve quoted some great stats. You’ve mentioned what needs to happen. Exactly how would you get these numbers of recruits, both junior enlisted and NCO/Officers? I don’t think ISAF is turning anyone down. You can only train the ones that walk through the door. There aren’t battalions of bodies waiting in the wings for their boot camps to start.
    You asked JB what his experience with the ANA was. I ask you what are your creds past reading and quoting a few articles? I think one of the problems we have right now is that the academics are coming up with solutions based on non-ground truths. They only care about political ramifications, not our lives. It’s obvious that this administration does not want to commit to this fight in fear of upsetting the 20% liberal base. The outright lies, stalling, sidestepping and grandstanding by the administration is not lost on a majority of the country. If American lives were not at stake, I would wish the administration would continue on it’s course. It would make things much better for the conservative movement in the coming elections in 2010 and 2012. The procrastination that is happening is outright criminal.

  13. “Exactly how would you get these numbers of recruits, both junior enlisted and NCO/Officers? I don’t think ISAF is turning anyone down. You can only train the ones that walk through the door. There aren’t battalions of bodies waiting in the wings for their boot camps to start.” Yes there are. The ANSF currently only accepts a fraction of applicants because their boot camp is only 12,000 at a time. The ANA is especially difficult for Afghans to join because of limited open positions (which means that cronyism and nepotism sometimes determines who gets to join the ANA.) The problems with increasing training through put are:
    1) CSTC-A/NTM-A is only staffed at half its authorized, and even its authorized is far too low in my opinion
    2) Major General Aminullah Karim’s Afghan National Army Training Command is severely under resourced in personnel and money. So is the Afghan MoI (Ministry of Interior) equivalent.
    3) Fixed facility billeting and training centers. MoD Minister Wardek wants to use tents to increasing the training through put. This, I believe is happening. It should be greatly expanded. I would also buy open meadows from farmers near transportation networks, mow down the fields, and use these very rough open air facilities for training. This will be challenging because water and all supplies will need to be trucked in; and electricity will be very limited in these open air fields.

    I am a civilian without credentials. I also don’t really care who wins the next election. Success is much more important to me. “he outright lies, stalling, sidestepping and grandstanding by the administration is not lost on a majority of the country” . . . I really think this type of partisanship diminishes us as a country. While I concede that you might be right about members of President Obama’s inner circle; I genuinely don’t think you are right about President Obama himself.

    I would also be very careful about assuming you know what is going on in the Administration’s deliberations. The world doesn’t have binary options. Some might be arguing for going long without going big; by which I mean a long term FID mission to help both Pakistan and Afghanistan fight extremists.

    Every US soldier in Afghanistan costs $1 million per year. ANSF and Pakistani security force soldiers and police are far cheaper.

    My belief is that, whatever the overall strategy, the administration should publicly pledge that the international community will provide $120 billion in funding for the ANSF over 20 years, and let the ANSF plan long term accordingly, as if the money is in the bank. This would substantially boost the morale of the ANSF in the fight.

    Are you sure you know what McChrystal, Petraeus, and other soldiers scholars really think? There is a plethora of different strategies being advanced by the best and brightest.

    If you are interested in Afghanistan, I usually hang out at these two blogs:
    http://www.registan.net/
    http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama

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