Flournoy: Afghan Forces on Track for Build-up

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2011 — Devel­op­ment of Afghanistan’s secu­ri­ty forces is on track as a main ele­ment of the Defense Department’s strat­e­gy for elim­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ist safe havens in that coun­try, Mich� Flournoy said today.

Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, tes­ti­fied here before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee about improve­ments in the Afghan army and police.

“We are meet­ing our growth goals and are con­tin­u­ing to improve qual­i­ty and per­for­mance, Flournoy said. Most impor­tant­ly, she said, the Afghan nation­al army and nation­al pol­i­cy “are step­ping up to take more respon­si­bil­i­ty in the field, enabling both the tran­si­tion process … and the draw­down of our surge forces to [pro­ceed].”

The NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan, or NTM-A, estab­lished in 2009 under the com­mand of Army Lt. Gen. William B. Cald­well, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of the Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand, is large­ly respon­si­ble for the improve­ment, Flournoy said.

Cald­well brought dis­parate efforts under a sin­gle com­mand and estab­lished iter­a­tive, pro­fes­sion­al and stan­dards-based train­ing, she added.

Afghanistan’s nation­al secu­ri­ty force “is on track to reach its Octo­ber goal of 305,600 sol­diers and police, Flournoy said. Intense focus, she added, con­tin­ues on rais­ing Afghan units’ lit­er­a­cy and improv­ing oper­a­tional per­for­mance rates.

The train­ing com­mand esti­mates that the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces will achieve 50 per­cent over­all lit­er­a­cy rates at the third-grade lev­el next year, she said, with more than 70,000 police and 55,900 sol­diers receiv­ing some lev­el of lit­er­a­cy train­ing.

That is a major accom­plish­ment in a coun­try where the lit­er­a­cy rate for 18- to -40-year-olds is 14 per­cent, she added.

Train­ing and men­tor­ing pro­grams are reduc­ing the short­age of trained non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers, Flournoy said, and the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer and offi­cer corps grew by more than 20,000 new lead­ers over the past two years.

“Of equal impor­tance has been the effort to improve the ANSF’s oper­a­tional per­for­mance in the field,” she said, not­ing that part­ner­ing Afghan forces with U.S. and coali­tion forces on the bat­tle­field has accel­er­at­ed the effort.

In Jan­u­ary, 124 Afghan bat­tal­ions and head­quar­ters ele­ments were rat­ed as effec­tive with coali­tion advi­sors or assis­tance, the under­sec­re­tary said.

“As of August, there are now 147 units with these rat­ings out of 184 units assessed, and we expect that trend to con­tin­ue, if not accel­er­ate,” Flournoy said.

“These are not mere sta­tis­tics,” she added. “We have seen progress where it mat­ters most, which is on the ground in the cam­paign.”

Despite the Taliban’s stat­ed intent to focus on tran­si­tioned provinces, Flournoy said, secu­ri­ty forces are in the lead in those provinces and have been effec­tive in areas like Hel­mand province’s Lashkar Gah, where vio­lence in August was 60 per­cent low­er than in August 2010, and where the ANSF have been respon­si­ble for defeat­ing Tal­iban efforts to reverse the tran­si­tion.

“Dur­ing the attack on the U.S. embassy and NATO head­quar­ters ear­li­er this month in Kab­ul, the Afghan Nation­al Police … car­ried out a com­plex oper­a­tion that involved clear­ing placed muni­tions from each lev­el of a mul­ti­sto­ry build­ing and killing all 11 attack­ers,” she said.

Five police offi­cers and 11 Afghan civil­ians were killed in the attack, and Flournoy not­ed the “con­tin­u­ing sac­ri­fices of thou­sands of ded­i­cat­ed Afghan army and police offi­cers and their fam­i­lies.”

Afghan secu­ri­ty force casu­al­ties over the past year have includ­ed more than 2,500 killed and 6,000 wound­ed, she added.

“The ANSF are increas­ing­ly on the front lines and bear­ing the brunt of the hard fight­ing that con­tin­ues,” Flournoy said. “Their will­ing­ness to fight and die for their coun­try is tes­ti­mo­ny to the deter­mi­na­tion we see in the new ANSF that we are help­ing to build.”

Chal­lenges include attri­tion and sus­tain­abil­i­ty, she said.

Month­ly attri­tion in the army has aver­aged 2.3 per­cent since Novem­ber 2009. Over the past 12 months, ANA attri­tion has ranged from 3.2 per­cent to 1.9 per­cent, the under­sec­re­tary said.

Actu­al attri­tion is less than what the fig­ures reflect, Flournoy added, because many ANSF per­son­nel who are tak­en off the rolls lat­er return to their units.

“Work­ing with the Afghans,” she said, “we con­tin­ue to imple­ment a num­ber of pro­grams to reduce attri­tion, includ­ing pro­vid­ing sol­dier-care train­ing for lead­ers, extend­ing leave pol­i­cy and imple­ment­ing pre­dictable rota­tion cycles for units.”

Twelve new spe­cial­ty schools also train Afghans in areas rang­ing from engi­neer­ing and intel­li­gence to logis­tics and human resources.

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is being addressed in sev­er­al ways, she said, includ­ing reduc­ing costs and find­ing effi­cien­cies.

Afghan First ini­tia­tives, for exam­ple, pro­mote the pur­chase of local­ly pro­duced fur­ni­ture, boots and uni­forms. And NTM-A has found effi­cien­cies in Afghan units by reeval­u­at­ing equip­ment require­ments based on lessons learned from the field, the under­sec­re­tary said.

NMT-A has also adjust­ed build­ing stan­dards to a more sus­tain­able local norm,” Flournoy said.

Exam­ples include field­ing wash basins and clothes lines in place of mod­ern wash­ing machines, and installing ceil­ing fans rather than air con­di­tion­ers.

Such steps reduce pro­cure­ment and main­te­nance costs and long-term demand for elec­tric­i­ty and fuel, she said.

These and oth­er sav­ings efforts are respon­si­ble for a $1.6 bil­lion reduc­tion in the fis­cal 2012 bud­get request for ANSF devel­op­ment fund­ing, she said.

“But … I want to empha­size,” she told the pan­el, “there is no reduc­tion in our com­mit­ment and no reduc­tion in the qual­i­ty of the train­ing of the pro­gram. These are cost sav­ing effi­cien­cies that we believe are con­sis­tent with the sus­tain­abil­i­ty that we all seek.”

Based on fur­ther effi­cien­cies, she added, offi­cials “antic­i­pate a decrease in esti­mat­ed future-year bud­get requests as well.”

The com­ing years will be crit­i­cal for the ANSF, Flournoy said, “as they know that they will be in charge for pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for the Afghan peo­ple in 2014.”

This sum­mer the ANSF began assum­ing secu­ri­ty lead for more than 25 per­cent of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion with the tran­si­tion of sev­en provinces and munic­i­pal­i­ties.

“Lat­er this fall, we expect Pres­i­dent [Hamid] Karzai will receive the next set of tran­si­tion rec­om­men­da­tions from NATO and his Afghan min­is­ters,” Flournoy said.

“The next tranche could result in as much as 50 per­cent of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in … areas where the ANSF is in the lead for secu­ri­ty with our sup­port,” she added.

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