The calculations of COIN: Don't forget the other surge -- of Afghans
Posted By Thomas E. Ricks Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 10:25 AM
By Paula Broadwell
Best Defense guest columnist
...three significant challenges could impede the professionalization of the Afghan security forces: leader development, low literacy, and losses through attrition. Here are a few things Caldwell's team has initiated to address those issues.
Professionalization of the force requires development of institutions, systems, and enablers to support the infantry and police security forces. "Enablers," for example, are critical to the system's maturation, yet in 2009, there were no branch schools. Today there are nine: Engineer; Legal; MP; Logistics; Religious and Cultural Affairs; Intelligence, Finance, Infantry, and Artillery. Human Resources and Signals schools will open later in 2010, and Armor school in 2011. There were no logistic bases last fall. Today there are four operational regional centers with a national center to be established by the end of 2010.
Education of this force is also critical to professionalization, but it takes time as we can see in western professional development pipelines for NCOs and officers. NTM-A has developed a "backbone" of NCOs, from 1,950 to 9,300, an increase of 7,350 (376 percent). The National Military Academy of Afghanistan had 300 applicants in 2005 for 120 spaces, and 3600 applicants this year for 600 spaces.
These are great programs for Afghans who are already literate, but illiteracy (70 percent of Afghans) remains one of the greatest challenges for the Afghan general purposes forces. Literacy for them is a matter of life and death. If soldiers cannot read a map to call in air support and MEDEVAC helicopters, the minutes lost by using geographic features to talk the aircraft into location translates to lives lost. NTM-A instituted mandatory literacy training for all ANSF a year ago and has since enrolled 27,105 Afghans. After 64 hours of mandatory training, nearly 100 percent of ANSF troopers list "literacy training" as their favorite endeavor. They proudly wear a symbolic pen in their shirts as a sign of literacy.
In the last but not least of the challenges, arresting ANSF attrition is also a serious constraint, averaging 5.39 percent per month over the past 12 months. The issue is not systemic, but specific to those units where fighting is hardest and furthest from home. Increased pay, assisted leave, and a new system of role modeling may help. Time will tell.