Afghanistan — Training Mission Officer Discusses Afghan Forces’ Funding

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2010 — A NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan team is build­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces’ capa­bil­i­ties while help­ing them on the road to self-suf­fi­cien­cy.

“We buy their fuel, we buy their boots, we buy their uni­forms, com­mu­ni­ca­tions gear, their infra­struc­ture, all their equip­ment,” said Army Col. John Fer­rari, deputy com­man­der for pro­grams for NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan and Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand Afghanistan dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day.

The Afghan Secu­ri­ty Forces Fund, appro­pri­at­ed by the U.S. Con­gress, is pro­vid­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces with assets need­ed to grow and sus­tain their forces, enhanc­ing their capa­bil­i­ties to defend their own coun­try, Fer­rari said. His team, he added, works to help the Afghan gov­ern­ment gen­er­ate and sus­tain 305,000 sol­diers and police­men by Octo­ber 2011. To sus­tain the forces, he esti­mat­ed, the cost could range from $6 bil­lion to $8 bil­lion, with up to 25 per­cent growth in the num­ber of forces. For the fund to con­tin­ue long-term, with­out com­plete assis­tance from the Unit­ed States, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty will have to step in and assist with fund­ing, he added.

Fer­rari also dis­cussed “Afghan First,” a pro­gram that works with local man­u­fac­tur­ers and local com­pa­nies to ensure mon­ey that is spent for the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces is invest­ed in Afghan indus­tries.

“We get to know the fac­to­ry own­ers, the work force [and] the qual­i­ty of their prod­ucts,” he said. “This way, when they’re sell­ing to us, we know we’re get­ting what we paid for, and we also know that the peo­ple who are work­ing are get­ting a fair wage.”

He said the team has six mil­i­tary offi­cers who run the local acqui­si­tion cell, and they’re out on the front lines, work­ing with the fac­to­ries, meet­ing the own­ers and the work force. Pro­grams like this allow local com­pa­nies to get busi­ness and also stim­u­late the econ­o­my and com­mu­ni­ty, Fer­rari said.

One of the dif­fi­cul­ties his team still faces in the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty tasks is illit­er­a­cy.

“I think that the illit­er­a­cy rate is one of the great­est chal­lenges we face here,” he said. “It is a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge enough to train sol­diers and police­men, but when they’re also illit­er­ate, you have to spend more time bring­ing their lit­er­a­cy lev­els up.” About 20,000 sol­diers or police­men at any one time are in a pro­gram to bring them to a third-grade lit­er­a­cy lev­el, he said.

To fur­ther their aca­d­e­m­ic aspi­ra­tions, Fer­rari said, the plan is for thou­sands of sol­diers and police­men to com­plete the lit­er­a­cy pro­gram while train­ing them to become logis­ti­cians, com­mu­ni­ca­tions offi­cers and intel­li­gence ana­lysts.

“And so we have a plan that will syn­chro­nize the lit­er­a­cy, the train­ing of the spe­cial­ty skills, that will enable the tran­si­tion, what­ev­er that tran­si­tion is,” he said. “And so it’s our job to get those forces capa­ble enough as soon as we can in order to meet those con­di­tions.”

Fer­rari said as coali­tion forces part­ner with Afghan units, over time it will build their capa­bil­i­ty. He com­pared it to teach­ing a child how to ride a bike.

“If they have to go down a hill or around a bend or some­thing hap­pens, they might fall off again,” he said. “And so you pick them up and you put them back on. And every time they go through anoth­er obsta­cle or the ene­my gets a lit­tle bet­ter, they get a lit­tle bet­ter, until, over time, they’re going longer and longer with­out assis­tance.”

Fer­rari said that it will take time before all Afghan forces are oper­at­ing inde­pen­dent­ly and are in the lead.

“I don’t know how long that will take,” he acknowl­edged. “But there are signs today that the units that have been around for awhile, that have been bat­tle-test­ed, where the lead­er­ship is present, … can take charge under cer­tain con­di­tions for cer­tain time­lines,” he said.

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

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