War on Terrorism

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mullen to Assess Afghan Training Needs

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 28, 2010 - Training Afghan security forces is a priority for coalition forces, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he intends to meet with coalition and Afghan leaders to assess that process.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who stopped here for fuel en route to Afghanistan, said he also wants to understand what the shortage of trainers for the Afghan army and police will mean to the effort.

By the end of fiscal 2010, plans call for about 240,000 members in the Afghan security forces. By the end of fiscal 2011, that number jumps to just over 300,000. Just managing the increase is a big job, but the training command also has to train replacements for soldiers and police whose enlistments end or who are killed or wounded.

All agree that the Afghan National Army has progressed the most. Afghan kandaks battalion-size units have led operations in many areas of the country. The army's biggest problem is a lack of mid-level leaders and staff officers and staff noncommissioned officers.

But the police have a long way to go. Local police in Helmand province were so corrupt they drove the citizens into the arms of the Taliban, officials in Kabul said earlier this month. But police are absolutely crucial to long-range security, Mullen said. "Police training was not resourced well in the past," he noted. "Previous commanders put in programs that matched the resources they had, rather than training to the requirements they needed."

The best counterinsurgency force is a local force, and coalition forces are working with the Afghans to build that force. But there are not enough trainers. "We've asked and pushed our partners to provide as many trainers as possible, and that continues," Mullen said.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis, NATO's supreme allied commander, is working with the alliance's countries and other international partners to get these trainers. "We've come up short a few hundred and that's part of the discussion I want to have," the chairman said.

Mullen said he will meet with Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, and Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, in charge of training Afghan security forces, "to understand this gap and how serious it is against that goal that we all have."

"That will inform me about the options we have," the chairman said.

Afghan army training takes in recruits and then forms kandaks at Camp Blackhorse, outside Kabul. At the camp, the units receive embedded trainers who work with the unit as it forms and increases capabilities. Once that aspect is finished, the kandak joins an Afghan brigade. McChrystal insisted that all Afghan units have partners, and those coalition units continue to work with the Afghans to train them.

"In the Marja offensive, some [Afghan units] were led well, some were so-so, and some of them weren't led well at all," Mullen said. "That doesn't surprise me. That outcome is something we will continue to work with."

But the face that many residents of Marja saw when the offensive began belonged to an Afghan soldier, and that should continue to be the goal, Mullen said.

"The feedback I get on counterinsurgency is that it is moving forward on the small unit level by both [the International Security Assistance Force] and the Afghans," the chairman said.

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