Deputy Notes Progress of Afghan Training Mission

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2011 — Before 2001, Afghanistan had a lot of war­riors, but few dis­ci­plined sol­diers or police.
Coali­tion forces came into the coun­try and took on al-Qai­da and the Tal­iban, but the long-term plan always has been to train Afghans to secure their own coun­try.

The NATO train­ing mis­sion has made tremen­dous progress over the past two years to train Afghan secu­ri­ty forces, and this month Afghan forces began tak­ing over secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty for sev­en areas of the coun­try cov­er­ing rough­ly 25 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

There is much more to train­ing an army and police force than sim­ply pass­ing out rifles and pis­tols to will­ing per­son­nel, said Dr. Jack D. Kem, the deputy to the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan com­man­der, Army Lt. Gen. William B. Cald­well IV, dur­ing a recent inter­view here.

Train­ers speak of the Afghan police and army as one force, rather than sep­a­rate enti­ties, Kem said. Going for­ward, he explained, the army and police must work togeth­er to guar­an­tee secu­ri­ty in the coun­try.

Build­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty force is more than sim­ple train­ing, Kem said. It includes deal­ing with lit­er­a­cy prob­lems, leader devel­op­ment, gen­der inte­gra­tion and human rights, as well as acqui­si­tion issues and Afghanistan’s eth­nic mix.

Rough­ly 295,000 per­son­nel serve in the Afghan secu­ri­ty force. “We’re build­ing to 305,600 this year, and grow­ing to a force of 352,000 — 195,000 in the army and 157,000 in the police, by Oct. 31, 2012,” Kem said.

Two years ago, the army, which was the only semi-effec­tive Afghan secu­ri­ty force, was at about 90,000 mem­bers. With the train­ing mission’s focus, the gains over the past two years are in qual­i­ty, not just quan­ti­ty, Kem said. “In Octo­ber 2009, 35 per­cent of recruits qual­i­fied with their weapons,” he said. “Today, 95 per­cent do. Lit­er­a­cy rate is up to 50 per­cent in the army.”

On the police side, offi­cers now train to a com­mon stan­dard, which was not the prac­tice when the NATO train­ing mis­sion stood up two years ago. “The army is ahead of the police across the board,” Kem said. “But the Afghan Civ­il Order Police is a very good force, too.”

The army is built around infantry, and kan­daks — the equiv­a­lent of bat­tal­ions — remain the basis for the ser­vice. But over the past two years, the coali­tion has helped to build enablers — engi­neers, sig­nal corps, intel­li­gence and logis­tics forces, the deputy said. “It is a force that pri­mar­i­ly is to respond to exter­nal threats and secure the bor­ders, and to respond to dis­as­ters as need­ed,” Kem said.

The police have a num­ber of pil­lars. One is the Afghan uni­formed police, which is the typ­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty police force that oper­ates in each of the dis­tricts or provinces. There is the Afghan Bor­der Police, whose mis­sion is self-explana­to­ry. And there is the Afghan Civ­il Order Police, which is a quick-reac­tion, gen­darmerie-type force, along the lines of Italy’s Cara­binieri. They pro­vide a high­er lev­el, para­mil­i­tary type of force.

The typ­i­cal recruit is “phys­i­cal­ly fit, clear-eyed and they want to work,” Kem said. “They are sur­vivors and high­ly moti­vat­ed.”

But they also are illit­er­ate. “About 86 per­cent come in and can’t count to four,” he said. “They have not lived in wealth, so many have nev­er seen run­ning water or dri­ven a vehi­cle. There are a lot of things that we have to do that wouldn’t be typ­i­cal in the West.”

NATO train­ers had to estab­lish lit­er­a­cy class­es, because while the younger gen­er­a­tion now is in school and the old­est lit­er­ate gen­er­a­tion pre-dates the Sovi­et inva­sion, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion lived through the Tal­iban regime, which den­i­grat­ed read­ing and count­ing and absolute­ly for­bade women from get­ting an edu­ca­tion. This gen­er­a­tion can’t write their names.

They want that,” Kem said. “The No. 1 moti­va­tor to join the army and police is lit­er­a­cy. The No. 1 moti­va­tor to stay is the lit­er­a­cy class­es.”

Lit­er­a­cy is a huge issue that cross­es all bound­aries. Secu­ri­ty requires a lit­er­ate force if only to take down license plate num­bers or write reports. From a gov­er­nance stand­point, there are not enough lit­er­ate peo­ple to pro­vide the ser­vices that are need­ed and put in place the rule of law. The long-term eco­nom­ic issue requires lit­er­a­cy to put in place the human cap­i­tal need­ed to pros­per.

We have 110,000 peo­ple in lit­er­a­cy cours­es,” Kem said. “In 10 years, school enroll­ment has gone from 800,000 to 8 mil­lion. Some of that is from our assis­tance.”

Lead­er­ship requires lit­er­a­cy — and expe­ri­ence, Kem said. “We always say it takes 10 years to make a major or a mas­ter sergeant,” he said. “We don’t have 10 years, so you take the lit­er­ate and give them a com­bi­na­tion of edu­ca­tion, train­ing and expe­ri­ence, and you pro­vide some of the assis­tance to bring them up. Then you watch them to iden­ti­fy the lead­ers, and you encour­age them.”

Con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion for the police and the army is cru­cial, and the NATO mis­sion is tak­ing a page from U.S. pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion. Afghan mil­i­tary and police lead­ers must take class­es through­out their careers.

Cor­rup­tion is an issue, and even in that, lit­er­a­cy has a role. “If you can’t count to four, you don’t know how much mon­ey is in your pock­et or how much you are paid,” Kem said. “You depend on oth­er peo­ple, which leaves you open to be the vic­tim of cor­rup­tion.”

Most Afghans are hon­est and want to be treat­ed fair­ly, he said. The coali­tion needs to help the Afghans cre­ate the struc­tures to enforce the laws so every­body fol­lows the laws.

Gen­der inte­gra­tion is an impor­tant issue for the Afghans, and a “red-line” issue for the Unit­ed States. The Afghan con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees equal rights for women, and the secu­ri­ty force is doing its part to cement these rights in place. The Afghan Nation­al Police want 5,000 women police offi­cers by the end of 2014. Today, there are about 1,200, Kem said.

Next year, 10 per­cent of the Afghan mil­i­tary acad­e­my class of 600 will be women. Some of the Afghan pilots now train­ing in the U.S. are female. “We are look­ing at areas where we can open the aper­ture for women,” he said. “The Bor­der Police is a clas­sic area where gen­der main­stream­ing will work, and will serve as an exam­ple.”

The NATO train­ing effort has been suc­cess­ful to the point that few NATO per­son­nel are actu­al­ly involved in hands-on train­ing of Afghan forces. They have trained the train­ers and the Afghan mas­ter train­ers, and now are in an over­watch posi­tion.

I think the Afghans are impa­tient about exert­ing their own sov­er­eign­ty,” Kem said. “I think they would be more than hap­py for us to leave, but I don’t think they want us to leave before things are ready, and there is ten­sion there. They’d like to have a long-term rela­tion­ship with us, but not be depen­dent on us.”

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