By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 8, 2008 - Leaders training security forces in Afghanistan's western region need about 300 more trainers, a U.S. Army colonel involved in the effort said today. Afghan Regional Security Integration Command West, with headquarters in Herat, expanded its mission to train police forces last year, Col. Jim Klingaman, the organization's commander, said in a briefing via satellite with Pentagon reporters.
The colonel said he had to move some Afghan army trainers to the police training mission to accommodate the expanded mission, and that left some gaps. He said he needs about 300 more troops to continue training the forces he has now. As the Afghan National Army grows, he added, training requirements will grow, as well.
Klingaman's forces are made up of both U.S. and NATO personnel. The majority of soldiers he has training the Afghan National Army are operational mentor liaison teams, which are NATO entities, he said, and the majority of those teams are from Italy and Spain, along with a small contingent from Slovenia.
Ideally, the colonel said, he would like to have one 16-person mentor team in each of his police districts -- about 50 teams. He is responsible for four provinces, each with about a dozen districts. He now staffs only six teams in those provinces, Klingaman said.
To make up for the lack of trainers, he said, police units are being pulled out of their districts and replaced by Afghan National Civil Order Police from outside the region. The police units go through eight weeks of training at a regional center and then return and are assigned a mentor team for three months. The first district in the rotation is undergoing training now. Klingaman said he hopes to have five more through by the end of summer.
Training for the police focuses on survival and confidence building, the colonel said.
"My experience in the west is that the Afghan National Police will have the capability to win when they stand and fight. The challenge for them and for us ... is developing in them the confidence that they can stand and fight and that there will be reinforcements available if those are required," Klingaman said.
"Many times when the Afghan National Police locally stand and fight the Taliban, they really have no problem surviving; in most cases that I've seen they come out on top," he said.
Klingaman said the key to counterinsurgency operations is to use local forces.
"In the situation here in Afghanistan, given the great expanse geographically and the relatively low density of coalition forces, we're very reliant ultimately on the development of competent Afghan national security forces," he said.
The Afghan National Army's 207th Corps has its headquarters in Herat. Klingaman said the corps is adequately but not fully equipped. The forces now are receiving newer M-4 carbines and M-16 rifles to replace the AK-47s they have been using.