Afghanistan — General Discusses Afghan Army’s Development

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2010 — Afghanistan’s army, with help from the NATO train­ing mis­sion there, is work­ing to increase its growth, devel­op lead­ers and increase reten­tion to make a stronger force.

“What we do is gen­er­ate and sus­tain and devel­op lead­ers for the Afghan Nation­al Army,” said Army Brig. Gen. Gary S. Pat­ton, deputy com­man­der for army train­ing for NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan and Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand Afghanistan, dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table July 2.

The Afghan army has grown in qual­i­ty and quan­ti­ty, with sig­nif­i­cant progress in the past few months, Pat­ton said. From May to June, the Afghan army grew by more than 4,000 sol­diers to a cur­rent total force of 129,885 sol­diers. These num­bers put the effort at 6,000 sol­diers above the goal for that time frame and ahead of sched­ule for grow­ing the Afghan army, the gen­er­al said.

Pat­ton said the Afghan army’s deficit of 12,000 non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers stems from the fact that infantry num­bers can be increased faster than it takes to make new lead­ers. “Lead­ers take time and take expe­ri­ence,” he said.

To solve this prob­lem, the Afghan army sends 150 of the best sol­diers from each infantry class to a four-week course after basic train­ing. A pro­gres­sive, 12-week direct-entry E‑6 course assists with nar­row­ing NCO gaps as well, Pat­ton said.

Some 3,300 Afghan sol­diers are enrolled in both cours­es and will become NCOs after grad­u­a­tion, the gen­er­al explained, and the cycle of sol­diers going to train­ing will repeat as each group grad­u­ates.

With the com­bi­na­tion of the train­ing and bat­tle­field pro­mo­tion, he esti­mat­ed that by the fall of 2011 the army will be on task with the num­ber of NCOs.

The Afghan army also is work­ing to devel­op and cre­ate more lead­ers who can go out and teach with­in the forces. The NATO train­ing mission’s “train the train­er” pro­gram recent­ly turned out 113 grad­u­ates who can go out into the Afghan army and train oth­er sol­diers how to dri­ve army vehi­cles.

Attri­tion and reten­tion have been issues for the Afghan army. Recruit­ing goes down and the attri­tion ris­es in the sum­mer, he explained, because Afghanistan is an agri­cul­tur­al soci­ety. But because the attri­tion lev­el has been near the goals of 1.3 per­cent, Pat­ton said, this sum­mer should be fine.

“We have been bank­ing extra recruits over some very suc­cess­ful months,” he said. “As long as we keep the train­ing seats filled, we we’ll be OK.”

Pat­ton also stressed that the army is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant head­way with increas­ing the lit­er­a­cy rate of Afghan sol­diers. “It’s para­mount that we have lit­er­a­cy in the train­ing,” he said.

Only 14 per­cent of Afghan recruits are lit­er­ate, and Pat­ton said he has received com­mit­ments from his Afghan coun­ter­parts to add lit­er­a­cy to army train­ing.

“Hav­ing a lit­er­a­cy pro­gram embed­ded with­in our basic train­ing and NCO train­ing is real­ly crit­i­cal in devel­op­ing sol­diers and lead­ers that can advance in their spe­cial­ty,” he said.

Pat­ton said his over­all focus is on leader devel­op­ment and cre­at­ing a great momen­tum in the growth of an army that con­tin­ues to grow in capa­bil­i­ty.

“If we stay on tar­get,” he said, “we feel all of our objec­tives are achiev­able.”

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