Afghanistan — Trainer Sees Positive Trends in Afghan Army

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2010 — The quan­ti­ty and qual­i­ty of offi­cers, non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers and recruits in the Afghan army is ris­ing, the deputy com­man­der of the NATO train­ing mis­sion in Afghanistan said this week.

Dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table Sept. 8, Army Brig. Gen. Gary Pat­ton cit­ed a vis­it he’d just made to Afghanistan’s Nation­al Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my, not­ing that the class of 2009 came from a field of appli­cants num­ber­ing only 360 in 2005. The 2010 class of fresh­men who will grad­u­ate in 2014 had more than 3,000 appli­cants.

“The inter­est lev­el, the recruit­ing and so forth has grown ten­fold just in the last cou­ple of years. … That’s impres­sive,” said Pat­ton, who not­ed that 212 new offi­cers have report­ed to their assign­ments. And, he said, these offi­cers were select­ed by way of a neu­tral lot­tery, not by favoritism or oth­er prac­tices.

Pat­ton also said that in one week of train­ing, the army grew by 1,326 new enlist­ed sol­diers, gained an addi­tion­al 850 new NCOs at var­i­ous ranks, and brought in anoth­er 157 for­mer offi­cers who had grad­u­at­ed from a 10-week inte­gra­tion course for for­mer inde­pen­dent fight­ers.

Pri­or to this year, Pat­ton said, no schools exist­ed for mil­i­tary spe­cial­ties or NCO pro­fes­sion­al train­ing in the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces beyond basic train­ing. That also is chang­ing, as the NATO train­ing mis­sion looks at grow­ing the enabler forces — the engi­neer­ing, sup­ply and artillery units. He said an advanced logis­tics school opened last month, and an artillery school will be up and run­ning in Octo­ber.

“The branch schools are so impor­tant, to add to their basic train­ing and fur­ther devel­op and spe­cial­ize them in their mil­i­tary skills,” Pat­ton said, draw­ing a par­al­lel to the way U.S. Army offi­cers, NCOs and sol­diers are trained.

Even as the Afghan army con­tin­ues to grow and become more pro­fes­sion­al, Pat­ton said, the No. 1 ene­my of growth is attri­tion – sol­diers killed or wound­ed and those who are absent with­out leave. He said 97 per­cent of the attri­tion occurs from troops who go AWOL, and he blames it on a lack of lead­er­ship.

He added that a sec­ond chal­lenge to attri­tion lies in gen­er­at­ing lead­ers to fill “sig­nif­i­cant deficits” with­in the offi­cer and NCO corps.

“In the NCO corps, we’re 10,500 NCOs short,” Pat­ton said. “We are increas­ing the num­ber of cours­es to cre­ate NCOs. We believe that we can do some things to reduce that deficit and get pret­ty close to elim­i­nat­ing that deficit by the end of cal­en­dar year 2011.”

The Afghan army also has an offi­cer short­age of 4,500, which the NATO train­ing mis­sion is work­ing to fix by increas­ing the num­ber of cours­es avail­able.

Manda­to­ry lit­er­a­cy pro­grams also are grow­ing. Offi­cials expect to have 50,000 Afghan sol­diers enrolled in lit­er­a­cy train­ing by Decem­ber and 100,000 by June, Pat­ton said. This month, he added, a pilot course was intro­duced to take lit­er­a­cy to basic war­rior train­ing. About 86 per­cent of entry-lev­el recruits in Afghanistan are illit­er­ate, the gen­er­al not­ed.

Some 1,400 basic trainees are under­go­ing 64 hours of lit­er­a­cy train­ing to bring their skills to the first-grade lev­el, Pat­ton said, though that is not suf­fi­cient to plot an artillery solu­tion or to con­duct a sup­ply inven­to­ry as a logis­ti­cian.

Pat­ton said between basic train­ing and advanced instruc­tion, Afghan sol­diers will receive an addi­tion­al 120 hours of immer­sion lit­er­a­cy train­ing, which would bring them to the third-grade lev­el and place them at bare min­i­mum stan­dards for advanced train­ing in mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion­al spe­cial­ties such as logis­tics or engi­neer­ing.

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

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