Michael Yon has been following testimony by British military leadership on the status of the Af-Pak war, as Michael calls it, but discovers that some estimations of Afghan capability are outdated. The prevailing view of native Afghan security forces is that they are few in number, lack capability, and at least in the police forces, hopelessly corrupt. One of Michael’s correspondents from the theater says that none of that is true:
The assertions on ANA unit independence are incorrect. As well, the ANA is larger than stated in the article, but was only recently authorized by the Bonn Accord constituted Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to grow beyond 80,000 to 122,000 in structure and 134,000 in end strength. Even with that increase, neither the ANA nor the ANP are adequate in size, fully equipped, or have enough advisor teams. However, while far from perfect, they fight, are capable and can operate effectively. …
75% of the brigade headquarters and 50% of the infantry battalions in the south of Afghanistan are capable of independent action within their organic capabilities. The combat support and service support battalions are lagging for a variety of reasons, including an absence of branch schools [much of their training comes from the advisor teams embedded with them, on the job training, and mobile training and regional training teams] and the propensity of commanders to use them as infantry due in part to over tasking and inadequate numbers mentioned above. …
With the exception of one very tough district, every district where the Police have undergone the Focused District Development reform program has seen dramatic drops in civilian casualties and significant drops in police casualties. Moreover, despite our constant recriminations and obvious shortcomings, including continued corruption, the police poll very highly with the Afghan people and they do fight to protect their people, suffering 3 times the casualties seen by either the ANA or ISAF.
As Colonel Bill Hix says, the level of forces is still far from adequate, and we’ve been at it longer in Afghanistan than in Iraq. In Iraq, we managed to work through the somewhat less complex tribal politics to get recruits, succeeding where and when we won hearts and minds. We haven’t done that yet in Afghanistan, and the conflict there is much more of a tribal and civil war than in Iraq. Recruitment is necessarily more difficult, and apparently NATO artficially capped the numbers until recently.
With what they have, though, it sounds as though they’re doing a credible job. They may not be up to the Iraqi Army’s level of capability, but Hix reports that they can fight and win, and that they can hold and police vital territory. That gives Afghanistan a good core on which to build their security systems. But it has to go faster than this. We’ve been in Afghanistan for over seven years now, and one would expect that NATO would have focused on building security infrastructure.
Be sure to read all of Michael’s post, and don’t forget to support his indispensable free-lance work by donating to his tip jar.