General McChrystal’s report to Secretary Gates lays the groundwork for a request for 40,000+ more U.S. troops. The actual need for troops will be higher than that. McChrystal’s report relies heavily on Afghan National Security Forces (Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police), closely following the strategy laid out by CNAS to ramp up the readiness of ANA. But the left side of the isle doesn’t have the sole claim for plans to rely heavily on ANA. Kimberly and Frederick Kagan also recommend a similar reliance on a rapid increase in the size of the ANA to provide the necessary troops for population security.
But recall the problems that we have documented concerning the ANA.
We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, themselves claim that they cannot hold Helmand without Marines and fear being killed if they even go out into the streets, be relatively ineffective against Taliban fighters, sleep on their watch, and claim to be on vacation in the Helmand Province.
There has been robust debate concerning whether these examples are typical of regular behavior, but the reports of ANA problems keep being filed. One particularly troubling one comes from David Pugliese the Ottawa Citizen.
Army staff and National Defence headquarters officials were told in 2007 that young boys had allegedly been sexually abused by Afghan security forces at a Canadian base in Afghanistan, but the concern at the time was that the incident might be reported in the news media, according to military records obtained by the Citizen.
In addition, last year Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to the senior army leadership the concerns raised by military police who said they had been told by their commanders not to interfere in incidents in which Afghan forces were having sex with children.
The newly released records raise questions about a military investigation that earlier this year concluded that allegations about sexual abuse of Afghan children by members of the Afghan army and police were unfounded. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service also stated that its thorough investigation concluded allegations of such incidents were never reported to Canadian military commanders.
The allegations first surfaced publicly in June 2008 after concerns about the incidents, originally raised by soldiers and military chaplains, were reported in the news media.
Former Cpl. Travis Schouten told military officials he had witnessed an Afghan boy being sodomized by two Afghan security personnel at Canada’s Forward Operating Base Wilson in Afghanistan in 2006. Another soldier also came forward to a Toronto newspaper to report a similar occurrence at the same base in 2006. A military chaplain talked about the abuse in a report sent up the chain of command at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. Two other chaplains have also come forward to state that soldiers came to them upset about such abuses.
The issue is sensitive for the Canadian Forces and the federal government as the Afghanistan mission has been promoted to the public as being about protecting Afghan civilians. The Afghan National Army and police are seen as key to Canada’s military withdrawal from that country in 2011.
It is the position of the Canadian Forces that its troops have no jurisdiction over the activities of Afghan military and police personnel, even those operating on Canadian bases.
The military records obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information law note that a 90-minute meeting was held between an army public affairs staff member and a member of army commander Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie’s executive staff in the summer/fall of 2007. According to the June 2008 e-mail written by Lt.-Col. Stephane Grenier, an adviser on operational stress injuries, the meeting focused on various controversies that might be brought out in the news media, including, “ANP/ANA members having anal sex with young boys.”
ANP stands for Afghan National Police while ANA refers to Afghan National Army.
A second meeting about Afghan police and soldiers having sex with children was held later that week at National Defence headquarters involving senior members of the Defence Department’s civilian and military public affairs staff, according to the e-mail.
In addition, on June 18, 2008, Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to Leslie’s staff and Brig.-Gen. Ian Poulter the concerns raised by several military police officers. Collin called the e-mail from the military police commander, “rather disconcerting.”
Included were details from military police who noted it was well known among Canadian troops that ANA and ANP personnel had sex with kids. Another was upset that military police were told not to intervene in such matters, according to the e-mail.
Also queued up is a recent report by Ann Jones for the Asia Times.
In the heat of this summer, I went out to the training fields near Kabul where Afghan army recruits are put through their paces, and it was quickly evident just what’s getting lost in translation. Our trainers, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, were masterful. Professional and highly skilled, they were dedicated to carrying out their mission – and doing the job well. They were also big, strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men, their bodies swollen by flack jackets and lashed with knives, handguns, and god only knows what else. Any American could be proud of their commitment to tough duty.
The Afghans were puny by comparison: hundreds of little Davids to the overstuffed American Goliaths training them. Keep in mind: Afghan recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am (1.6 meters and thin) – and some probably not much stronger. Like me, many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flack jacket.
Their American trainers spoke of “upper body strength deficiency” and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds (110 kilograms) of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day – as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect – but the US military is determined to train them for another style of war.
Still, the new recruits turn out for training in the blistering heat in this stony desert landscape wearing, beneath their heavy uniforms, the smart red, green, and black warm-up outfits intended to encourage them to engage in off-duty exercise. American trainers recognize that recruits regularly wear all their gear at once for fear somebody will steal anything left behind in the barracks, but they take this overdressing as a sign of how much Afghans love the military.
My own reading, based on my observations of Afghan life during the years I’ve spent in that country, is this: It’s a sign of how little they trust one another, or the Americans who gave them the snazzy suits. I think it also indicates the obvious: that these impoverished men in a country without work have joined the Afghan National Army for what they can get out of it (and keep or sell) – and that doesn’t include democracy or glory.
In the current policy debate about the Afghan War in Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin wants the Afghans to defend their country. Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the committee, agrees but says they need even more help from even more Americans. The common ground – the sacred territory Obama gropes for – is that, whatever else happens, the US must speed up the training of “the Afghan security forces”.
American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines. That is not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen – and ever faster …
The current projected “end strength” for the ANA, to be reached in December 2011, is 134,000 men; but Afghan officers told me they’re planning for a force of 200,000, while the Western press often cites 240,000 as the final figure.
The number 400,000 is often mentioned as the supposed end-strength quota for the combined security forces – an army of 240,000 soldiers and a police force with 160,000 men. Yet Afghan National Police officials also speak of a far more inflated figure, 250,000, and they claim that 149,000 men have already been trained. Police training has always proven problematic, however, in part because, from the start, the European allies fundamentally disagreed with the Bush administration about what the role of the Afghan police should be.
Ann goes on to document the poor training of the ANP and the disagreement within both the ISAF and Afghanistan concerning exactly what the capabilities of the ANP should be. In either case, the ANP are widely known as corrupt and criminal people who don’t have the best interests of the Afghans at heart. The ANP is horrible, and more horrible still. Whether it’s the ANP who require bribes or the ANA who pluck the chickens of the locals when they enter their homes, the Afghan National Security Forces are not yet fully trusted by their own people, much less the ISAF, and for very good reason.
There is big trouble looming for those who believe that the ANSF is our strategy for a rapid exit. This doesn’t mean that the campaign is not winnable. It does mean, however, that there will be no rapid exit if we are to succeed. Western armies are the greatest on earth, no only with the requisite moral and social underpinnings of the institutions but also an NCO corps that makes them unique compared to Middle Eastern armies. Standing up an Afghanistan army will be very difficult, especially one that is large enough to assist in the campaign but also small enough to be supported by the GNP of the country. Whatever final size obtains, it will almost certainly be too large to be supported by Afghanistan alone.
The need of the hour is ANSF that is somewhat smaller, but much more reliable, more well trained and disciplined, and more respected by the Afghans. The need is not numbers. The need is an ANSF that actually contributes to the campaign. Also needed are more U.S. troops to perform counterinsurgency operations in the mean time, including killing the enemy and protecting the population from the same. More troops to train the ANSF is a romantic idea, but the notion that we can quickly rely on them is pure myth.
From the Daily Times of Pakistan.
… much of the recruitment that has brought the strength of the Afghan army to some 89,000 has come from Tajik areas, perhaps because Pashtuns have been intimidated into not joining, or perhaps because of the policies adopted by the largely Tajik-dominated bureaucracy of the Afghan defence ministry. The increase already approved to 134,000 will also come in current conditions from the Tajiks or other minority ethnic groups.
The further increase to 240,000 which has or will be proposed by Gen McChrystal will further compound the problem, of having a national army in which the largest ethnic group is underrepresented, and may give added reason for the Pashtuns to identify with the Taliban.
An internal Afghan problem, but affecting our efforts nonetheless.