NATO Trainers Work to Professionalize Afghan Forces

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2010 — As the orga­ni­za­tion begins its sec­ond year, NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan is push­ing for­ward in its effort to pro­fes­sion­al­ize Afghanistan’s secu­ri­ty forces, the gen­er­al in charge of that effort said today.

Army Lt. Gen. William B. Cald­well IV, who also com­mands Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand Afghanistan, said dur­ing a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table today that the com­ing year will focus on growth, build­ing sup­port­ing and enabling forces, and devel­op­ing self-sus­tain­able secu­ri­ty sys­tems and endur­ing insti­tu­tions while con­tin­u­ing the process of pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing the force.

Now is not the time to slow momen­tum in the pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion effort, he added.

“We must con­tin­ue to main­tain a sense of urgency that we have cre­at­ed over this last year,” he said. “In fact, it’s going to be required if we are going to over­come the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges that still remain.”

Cald­well added that despite these chal­lenges, he is proud of what the Afghan forces have accom­plished in the past year and “what is in the realm of pos­si­ble.”

Train­ers from the col­lab­o­rat­ing nations have worked over the past year with their Afghan part­ners to field an infantry-cen­tric army and police force capa­ble of par­tic­i­pat­ing in coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions, Cald­well said.

“Since the acti­va­tion of the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan last Novem­ber, the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force has made tru­ly sig­nif­i­cant progress [through] all of the col­lab­o­rat­ing stake­hold­ers, expand­ing their size and improv­ing their qual­i­ty,” he said.

Before the cur­rent orga­ni­za­tion was stood up, the gen­er­al said, a lack of suf­fi­cient resources was a key inhibitor to suc­cess that reflect­ed direct­ly in the quan­ti­ty and qual­i­ty of recruits enter­ing the force. The past year’s focus, Cald­well said, ben­e­fit­ed from the cre­ation of stan­dards to eval­u­ate the qual­i­ty of the recruits who help to build the foun­da­tion of the Afghan forces while also cre­at­ing a capac­i­ty to increase their end strength.

“Today we have built a foun­da­tion for the Afghan min­istries of inte­ri­or and defense to recruit, train and assign police and sol­diers across their coun­try,” he said. “All mem­bers of the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force now attend basic train­ing [that] includes sur­viv­abil­i­ty, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and lit­er­a­cy train­ing before being assigned to their units.”

A pay increase also has added to the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the Afghan forces, Cald­well said, pro­vid­ing a liv­ing wage and reduc­ing poten­tial for preda­to­ry cor­rup­tion.

These mea­sures enabled the Afghan army and police to attain their 2010 end strength goals three months ahead of sched­ule and facil­i­tat­ed their move­ment toward pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion, the gen­er­al not­ed.

Look­ing ahead to the next year, Cald­well said, the train­ing mission’s focus will con­tin­ue to cen­ter on devel­op­ing Afghan forces ded­i­cat­ed to serve and pro­tect the Afghan peo­ple. Dur­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion process in the year ahead, the gen­er­al said, offi­cer and non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer short­falls pose a chal­lenge, as many lead­ers still require train­ing, edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ence to “embrace an ethos of ser­vice and stew­ard­ship, both hall­marks of a pro­fes­sion­al army and police force.”

He added that in the com­ing year, train­ers will work on increas­ing the lit­er­a­cy rate of the vet­ted Afghan recruits. With only about 15 to 18 per­cent of recruits able to read and write or rec­og­nize num­bers, this con­tin­ues to be a chal­lenge, Cald­well said.

“With­out the basic abil­i­ty to read a map, write down a weapon’s ser­i­al num­ber or read a bank state­ment, Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force recruits are great­ly at risk on the bat­tle­field and become high­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to cor­rup­tion in gar­ri­son,” he said. Train­ers are focus­ing the lit­er­a­cy train­ing on the patrol­man or basic sol­dier. Every recruit is test­ed to bet­ter gauge their lit­er­a­cy lev­el. Those who score less than a first-grade lev­el are pro­vid­ed 64 hours of lit­er­a­cy train­ing, which is taught by Afghan instruc­tors.

“We have insti­tut­ed manda­to­ry lit­er­a­cy train­ing, [which] didn’t exist last year,” Cald­well said. “It is now imple­ment­ed across all of the army and police pro­grams.”

After they com­plete the first 64 hours of train­ing, army and police recruits are pro­vid­ed the Afghan edu­ca­tion ministry’s first-grade test. Cald­well said NATO train­ers have found that more than 94 per­cent pass that test.

Despite their low lit­er­a­cy when first com­ing into the Afghan forces, the gen­er­al said, the recruits are quite intel­li­gent.

“Just because you are illit­er­ate doesn’t mean you are not intel­li­gent,” he said. “These young men are very intel­li­gent and have some incred­i­ble secu­ri­ty and savvy skills, and they just haven’t been edu­cat­ed. What this edu­ca­tion pro­vides them is the abil­i­ty to read and write and start the pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion [process].”

To date, NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan has trained and test­ed 25,000 recruits. By next month, Cald­well said, he hopes to have 40,000 to 50,000 recruits in lit­er­a­cy train­ing.

Offi­cials are look­ing to fur­ther expand the lit­er­a­cy train­ing by sum­mer, he added, by extend­ing it to the oper­a­tional units to include more than 100,000 sol­diers and police involved in a vast array of train­ing encom­pass­ing first- to sixth-grade lev­el of train­ing.

Cald­well said he under­stands this is a long-term mis­sion, and that while trav­el­ing through­out Afghanistan and see­ing progress first-hand, he looks ahead opti­misti­cal­ly, but with a real­is­tic lens.

“You can see a change, just talk­ing to the peo­ple and the per­cep­tions they have about the secu­ri­ty of their coun­try,” he said. “The desire to move for­ward, … where tru­ly Afghans are going to secure Afghanistan, is what they all want. I am very opti­mistic where this mis­sion can go. But, I am also real­is­tic about the chal­lenges we will face in the future.”

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

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