Caldwell: Afghan Troops, Police Make ‘Significant’ Progress

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2011 — Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are mov­ing for­ward and will be able to assume the lead for secu­ri­ty in Decem­ber 2014, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William B. Cald­well IV, com­man­der of NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan.

Speak­ing to Pen­ta­gon reporters today, Cald­well said the Afghan army and nation­al police have made “tremen­dous” progress.

“Today, I can say the return on the invest­ment that we’re start­ing to see is pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant from these efforts made over the last two years by the men and women of this inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” he said.

Cald­well used Afghan army recruit­ment sta­tis­tics as an exam­ple of progress. “[In] Sep­tem­ber 2009, only 800 young men decid­ed they want­ed to join the Afghan nation­al army,” he said. “This past month in Sep­tem­ber, we had over 8,000 young men decide to join the Afghan nation­al army.

“And that’s not some­thing that just hap­pened this month,” Cald­well con­tin­ued. “It’s been going on since Decem­ber of 2009, where we’ve had more than ample recruits every sin­gle month vol­un­teer­ing to join and become a part of the Afghan nation­al army and the Afghan nation­al police.”

Cald­well cit­ed stan­dard­iza­tion as rea­son more than 114,000 new mem­bers have joined Afghan secu­ri­ty forces in the past 23 months.

“There are a lot of indi­vid­ual, dis­parate efforts, great pock­ets of excel­lence, out there around this coun­try in many dif­fer­ent areas,” he said. “But one thing NATO train­ing mis­sion was able to do, was to get a stan­dard­ized pro­gram of instruc­tions set not only for the army, but also now for the police forces, too, of Afghanistan.”

Anoth­er crit­i­cal action, accord­ing to Cald­well, was tran­si­tion­ing from NATO train­ers to Afghan train­ers.

“We’ve real­ly worked hard at … going from what was an all-con­trac­tor-based train­ing pro­gram … here in the fall of 2009, to a coali­tion-led train­ing pro­gram now evolv­ing into an Afghan-led train­ing pro­gram,” Cald­well said.

“We have over 3,100 Afghans assigned to train­ing instruc­tor posi­tions with a very delib­er­ate, proven pro­gram of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that takes place,” he added.

Cald­well said 1,500 train­ers have been cer­ti­fied with the oth­ers still being cer­ti­fied. “Even­tu­al­ly, [this will lead] to Decem­ber of 2012 when the Afghans will be in the lead for train­ing at the very basic lev­el at all of our train­ing insti­tu­tions here in Afghanistan,” he added.

“Again, anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward in giv­ing them the capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty to make this a long-term and endur­ing thing,” the gen­er­al said.

Cald­well also cit­ed lit­er­a­cy pro­grams as anoth­er break­through which has begun to “reap real rewards.”

“We have over 3,000 Afghan teach­ers that we’ve hired to work for our orga­ni­za­tion,” he said. “The lit­er­a­cy rate has been dra­mat­i­cal­ly increas­ing over these last six to eight months as we ful­ly imple­ment­ed this sys­tem.”

More than 120,000 mem­bers of Afghanistan’s secu­ri­ty forces have received some form of lit­er­a­cy train­ing, he added, out of a cur­rent force of about 305,000 sol­diers and police.

Cald­well said it became appar­ent Afghan leader devel­op­ment is crit­i­cal to NTM-A’s suc­cess. “You can build any­thing if you’ve got capa­ble lead­ers,” he said. “And so leader devel­op­ment has been and con­tin­ues to be our num­ber-one pri­or­i­ty.”

Cald­well said he has a pos­i­tive out­look for Afghanistan’s future. “I’m still very real­is­tic about the chal­lenges that lie out there ahead of us. They are still out there — no ques­tion,” he said. “But I can tell you after being on the ground here almost two years now, I’m also very opti­mistic about the future of what this place can hold for the Afghan peo­ple.”

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