Afghanistan — Afghanistan Army on ‘Glide Path’ to Meeting Quality, Growth Goals

WASHINGTON — Just six months after acti­vat­ing the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion- Afghanistan, one of the command’s deputy com­man­ders said that changes to the train­ing pro­gram have pro­duced marked improve­ments in the qual­i­ty of troops enter­ing the Afghan Nation­al Army.

Dur­ing yesterday’s DOD Live Blog­gers Round­table Army Brig. Gen. Gary Pat­ton, NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan and deputy com­man­der for the Army Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand-Afghanistan dis­cussed the results of the first 180-day assess­ment. Pat­ton high­light­ed remain­ing chal­lenges, along with some sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments.

“We now see an army that is meet­ing its growth objec­tives and low­er­ing its attri­tion rate,” Pat­ton said. He cred­it­ed the NTM-A’s stan­dards-based approach as an instru­men­tal fac­tor in the pos­i­tive turn­around. The approach includes rais­ing the ratio of instruc­tors to stu­dents and requir­ing recruits to pass tests after they grad­u­ate from basic train­ing.

Pat­ton stressed that the focus on qual­i­ty has not dimin­ished the abil­i­ty to meet growth objec­tives. He said the Afghanistan Nation­al Army may hit its Octo­ber 2010 tar­get num­ber of 134,000 troops in August.

“We are on a glide path to exceed­ing our cur­rent goals for growth,” he said.

Although the num­bers look ter­rif­ic, Pat­ton said many chal­lenges remain. He said he is espe­cial­ly con­cerned with a “crit­i­cal short­fall of non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers and [reg­u­lar] offi­cers right now in the ranks of the Afghan Army.” There was a good rea­son, Pat­ton said, to pri­or­i­tize the growth of the infantry over offi­cers dur­ing this past year. “We want­ed more boots on the ground, and an infantry force is a force that you need in a counter-insur­gency fight,” he said.

Next year, he said, aggres­sive train­ing plans are in place to devel­op lead­ers, includ­ing up to 4500 offi­cers and 15,000 non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers. For instance, he said, the NTM-A is tak­ing the top 150 recruits from every basic war­rior train­ing class and send­ing them direct­ly into the non-com­mis­sioned-offi­cer train­ing course.

Pat­ton also pledged that 2011 will be “The Year of the Enabler.” He said train­ing pro­grams will turn out spe­cial­ists in mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, mil­i­tary police, route clear­ance and engi­neer­ing. All of these spe­cial­ties, he said, will be crit­i­cal to build­ing a future self-sus­tain­ing mil­i­tary.

He added that efforts to train-the-train­er are under­way. Pat­ton point­ed out that the name of the Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand-Afghanistan includes the word, “tran­si­tion” for a rea­son. Even­tu­al­ly, he said, NATO will with­draw and a sol­id foun­da­tion of mil­i­tary train­ing schools will be crit­i­cal to the Afghan army’s abil­i­ty to endure.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)