Afghanistan war: Are Afghan forces loyal enough to take control by 2014?
The beheadings of six Afghan police have raised questions about the true loyalties of some Afghan forces during a crash program to recruit and train more locals in the Afghanistan war.
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Though fratricide happens in almost every army in the world, the incidents have raised questions about the true loyalties of some Afghan soldiers in the midst of a crash program to recruit and train more local forces that is ahead of schedule to reach a target of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 109,000 Afghan police by September.Skip to next paragraph
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The quality of those forces is an open question
In a highly critical June report, the US inspector general for Afghan reconstruction found that NATO trainers here have consistently overstated the capabilities of Afghan forces, and pointed to high rates of desertion, corruption, and drug use among trainees and officers. The report found that even top-rated Afghan forces “have not indicated a capability to sustain independent operations.”
“There are people who will quite rightly say ‘what were you doing the past eight years?' ” says Col. Stewart Cowan, the spokesman for the NATO training mission here. “But performance has improved, training has improved, and I think 2011 will be a year of increased” ANA capacity.
Cowan says that most of the criticisms in the inspector general’s report had already been taken on board and addressed before it was published, making the document a reflection of the past, not the present.
Aid and corruption
Rampant corruption here – a theme touched on at Tuesday’s Kabul conference, with international donors saying they will channel more aid through the Afghan government if it demonstrates it can limit theft – has also hampered force development.
NATO forces here have taken steps to stop officers taking part of their soldiers pay by setting up electronic transfers to individual accounts, and in some instances have added blue dye to the fuel at depots to limit pilfering. A NATO officer says another problem is that “provincial police chief posts come with a price tag” since they’re valued for the patronage opportunities they generate.
In a Tuesday report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington Anthony Cordesman, a former head of intelligence assessment for the US secretary of Defense, wrote, “[T]here is a significant probability that [Afghan security forces] will not be ready for any significant transfer of responsibility until well after 2011.”
Dr. Cordesman writes that “bitter strategic mistakes” have been made in the past eight years, among them a failure to “see the need for Afghan forces that could be effective partners … until at least mid-2009” and “treating the Afghan army as a low-grade auxiliary force that was effectively used up in ongoing operations, and leaving the police under-armed and under-trained.”
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