Here is your Afghan National Army

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

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.

Leave a Reply

13 Comments on "Here is your Afghan National Army"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Is there an alternative to ANSF, or at least to a formal, standing Army and National Police? Has anyone given any thought to an indigenous security force that is native to the locality they are expected to defend? In practical terms, why not let the Marines in Helmand, for example, recruit and train their own, local security force, similar to the Sons of Anbar—i.e., the “Sons of Helmand” ? From what I have read, the main objection to this comes from Karzai and his kleptocrats: they do not want localized forces that would not be under their control as this might give rise to provincial warlords. Does this objection really have any foundation? Is there any, good reason not to opt for local security forces? First, the Captain’s posts have amply demonstrated that the ANA/ANP are, perhaps, the worst of all possible options. It does not take an Elijah to forsee that the U.S. will pour billions of dollars into training these schmucks and then maintaining them only to be constantly embarrassed by their brutal treatment of the very people they are supposed to protect. Even more importantly, the money will be wasted because these recruits have no internal motivation… Read more »
» Daily Links II – 09/23/09 Where liberty dwells, there is my country…

[…] Here is your Afghan National Army […]


The Marine Corps started the hamlet program in Vietnam with some success until it was killed by HQ in Saigon. So with the right resources and commitment this could again work however I do not see the current administration supplying the needed men and women. Also the Article from the Asia Times brings up a good point. Why are we training Afghans to fight like we do? The training should be modeled on being able to hold a position and guerilla warfare like the Special Forces teams did the the Yards in Vietnam. It is a fact that Afghans are warriors but not soldiers so train them in methods that will untilize their strengths instead of highlighting their weaknesses.

My fear with the strong province strategy would be a bunch of warlords pounding on each other all of the time and the cycle of warfare would be worse. Also what incentive do the provinces have to keep the Taliban out?

rrk, agreed, waste of time trying to turn the mass of Afghan recruits into burly, 150-lb lugging infantry. Maybe a hand-picked battalion…. Perhaps “strong province” would not be the best approach to the extent that tribal or ethnic groups intersect any given province. The idea is to find the most natural affinity for the locals to organize around and maintain their loyalty. The logical choice would seem to be the village/tribe but perhaps there are other affinities that make more sense. In any event, the idea is to keep the security situation very local and not create a large, standing, provincial force that could be usurped by a warlord. Again, the Marines showed in Anbar that they know how to control these groups and, in the event that a local leader becomes too corrupt or power hungry, to replace that leader. The Marines in Anbar were careful not to allow any one of the Awakening groups to become too powerful or heavily armed. It was always clear that the Marines were in charge of the show and could bring down the heavy hand if need be. As far as incentive to keep the Taliban out, it is the Taliban themselves.… Read more »

For those interested, here is a link from Steven Pressfield’s site for what promises to be a fascinating series dealing with U.S. military outreach to the tribes (i.e., local security forces):

The Captain’s Journal » The Horrible Afghan National Police

[…] See also Here is your Afghan National Army […]


Personally I do not know when, why, or how the United States took on this nation building role after beating the crap out of a country.

Herschel, I am with you kill them so fast and in such numbers that they want to quit. It seems we get wrapped up in the hows and the whys and forget the main point which is to kill Taliban and AQ.



was the U.S. “nation building” in the case of either Germany or Japan after WWII? What about South Korea? Panama?

Is it ‘nation building’ per se that is objectionable or could it be the manner in which it has been done since 1950?

Did becoming a Omni-Power make the U.S. more sensitive in some ways to world opinion? Is the problem that we care too much about others’ opinions rather than too little? Maybe the U.S. is simply not unilateral enough?


You are correct but in the case of Europe, Japan, Korea etc.. we were not still fighting a war at the same time. We are good at breaking things and putting them back together but doing it at the same time is a challange for any military.

The Captain’s Journal » Generals Who Talk Tactics Rather Than Strategy

[…] (or anytime in the near future) has been a recurrent theme here at The Captain’s Journal (see Here is your Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police category).  Yet the strategy being implemented (i.e., heavy use of […]

The Captain's Journal » Counterinsurgency at a Sprint

[…] can the ANA perform this function as quickly as we might like?  Recall that I have observed that: We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban […]

The Captain's Journal » Counterinsurgency and Water Polo

[…] counterinsurgency and water polo, recall our observations of the Afghan National Army over the past months. We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban […]


You are currently reading "Here is your Afghan National Army", entry #3886 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghan National Army,Afghan National Police,Afghanistan,Featured,General McChrystal and was published September 22nd, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (677)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (31)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (7)
Ammunition (26)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (86)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (49)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (53)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (17)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (7)
Body Armor (17)
Books (2)
Border War (7)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (27)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (8)
CIA (23)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (215)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (130)
Department of Homeland Security (16)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (6)
Donald Trump (1)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (7)
Featured (177)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (585)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (41)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (471)
Guns (1,082)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (54)
India (10)
Infantry (3)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (22)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (44)
Islamists (69)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (2)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (49)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (244)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (31)
Memorial Day (2)
Mexican Cartels (24)
Mexico (30)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (4)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (15)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (17)
NATO (15)
Navy (21)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (2)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (53)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (218)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (33)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (241)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (316)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (114)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (74)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (173)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (24)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (18)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (2)
Survival (13)
SWAT Raids (53)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (1)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (92)
Thanksgiving (6)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (14)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (42)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (212)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (57)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (18)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2017 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.