NATO Incorporates Afghan Ways into Training

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2011 — As NATO’s Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan works to build the country’s army, air force, and police, it is doing so with an empha­sis on being “Afghan cen­tric,” the mission’s deputy com­man­der said.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller dis­cussed NATO’s mis­sion to train a self-suf­fi­cient Afghan mil­i­tary and police force yes­ter­day on a DoDLive Blog­gers’ Round­table.

The gen­er­al said it is unre­al­is­tic to think a few years of train­ing will cre­ate a mil­i­tary “on par with our own,” and an Afghan mil­i­tary won’t have the same require­ments as the U.S. mil­i­tary. He said he tries to focus on what an Afghan army, air force or police force might need.

“The three words I use around here a lot are, we’re try­ing to be Afghan-right, we’re try­ing to be Afghan-first, and now, we’re try­ing to be Afghan-like,” Fuller said.

For exam­ple, he explained, the U.S. Army has mobile kitchens they can set up until a con­trac­tor can get on-site to pro­vide food for the troops. But the Afghan army tends to be more local­ized, he said, and doesn’t need a lot of expe­di­tionary capa­bil­i­ty.

Build­ing infra­struc­ture also has shown the Afghan mil­i­tary to have dif­fer­ing require­ments. West­ern build­ing stan­dards dic­tate cer­tain ameni­ties, includ­ing air con­di­tion­ing, propane-equipped kitchens and West­ern-style toi­lets. Afghans have dif­fer­ent “neces­si­ties.”

Bath­rooms at U.S. instal­la­tions in Afghanistan had porce­lain sinks � a west­ern stan­dard. “But the Afghans like to wash their feet before they do prayers,” Fuller said. “So they were try­ing to perch on the edge of a porce­lain sink, and it didn’t work out very well. So, now we’ve changed it to Afghan-right.”

Doing what’s right for Afghanistan can come through busi­ness part­ner­ships, too. NTM-A is work­ing with Afghan-owned and oper­at­ed com­pa­nies to build a sus­tain­able mil­i­tary sup­port indus­try, the gen­er­al said.

The 352,000 mem­bers of the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty force need boots, uni­forms and oth­er equip­ment, Fuller said, and there’s no rea­son to import them.

“We’re hav­ing an Afghan com­pa­ny — or actu­al­ly, sev­er­al Afghan com­pa­nies — make the uni­forms, make the boots, make all the equip­ment items that they need,” he said. “Now we’re get­ting a much low­er price because the price we had to pay for in the Unit­ed States was one that had a ship­ping cost asso­ci­at­ed with it.”

Fuller said he wants NTM-A to leave Afghanistan with a capa­ble, sus­tain­able secu­ri­ty force, and a mar­ket for local­ly pro­duced equip­ment to help their econ­o­my grow and devel­op.

“We’re try­ing to do sev­er­al things … : build what’s appro­pri­ate for Afghanistan, use Afghanistan com­pa­nies as much as pos­si­ble, and then ensure that as they estab­lish stan­dards for account­abil­i­ty and stew­ard­ship, that they fol­low them,” Fuller said.

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