Journal of International Peace Operations
Volume 6, Number 4 – January-February, 2011
The fight for a stable and secure Afghanistan requires a professional, enduring and self-sustaining security force. NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) was established on November 21, 2009 to help build this Afghan National Security Force.
To support the development of the Afghan National Security Force, NTM-A focused on three key areas for the first year: grow the force, increase the quality of the force and build the foundation to professionalize the force. In the upcoming year NTM-A will sustain the progress achieved to date with a more dedicated focus on continuing growth, building support, enabling forces, developing self-sustainable security systems and enduring institutions, and beginning the process to professionalize the force.
While there were some solid programs at the establishment of NTM-A, there were urgent challenges due to the lack of resources and narrow mandate given to the previous command. Some training facilities were almost shuttered due to lack of personnel, and the training that was being provided focused on getting as many soldiers and police into the field as quickly as possible, mortgaging quality for quantity. Most police were recruited and assigned without being trained – and also while lacking a living wage, let alone wage parity with other similar security jobs or even the Taliban. Recruiting dropped to near record lows and there was a lack of solid and credible Afghan leadership, particularly at the mid-level.
To begin to address these significant challenges, NTM-A worked over the past year to get the inputs right with respect to resources, strategy, organization and people. Part of this effort was changing our internal organization to build a seamless, combined headquarters and updating approaches to key programs. These efforts helped our Afghan partners to reverse negative trends, and to field an infantry-centric army and basic police force capable of participating in counterinsurgency operations. Together, the Afghan National Security Force and NTM-A have created significant progress going into the next year.
Over the last year, the Afghan National Security Force has enjoyed extraordinary growth and increased training capacity. In the first ten months, the Afghan National Army (ANA) total strength grew from 97,011 to 138,164, an increase of 41,153 (42 percent), and the Afghan National Police (ANP) total strength grew from 94,958 to 120,504, an increase of 25,546 (27 percent). In total the Afghan National Security Force grew from 191,969 to 258,668, an increase of 66,699 (35 percent). However, high attrition remains a long-term concern, especially in units that are constantly in combat like the Afghan National Civil Order Police and army units in Southern Afghanistan.
While an increase in the quantity of the Afghan National Security Force is a sign of progress, we realized shortly after the activation of NTM-A that while quantity is important, quality is still imperative. It is the foundation of professionalism and our number one challenge to building a self-sustaining Afghan National Security Force is developing professionalism within its ranks. Professionalism is the key ingredient to an enduring force that can serve and protect its people.
To address this, NTM-A has emphasized literacy, as it is the basis for professional military and law enforcement personnel. Training improved, partly as NTM-A focused on three steps for training: train Afghan recruits, train Afghans to be trainers and train Afghans to assume control of their systems and institutions.
For the army, we brought on line the first ANA branch and specialty schools, which will develop specialized skill sets to facilitate the ANA becoming an enduring, self-generating and self-sustaining force.
For the police, the Ministry of Interior and NTM-A implemented a new model of “Recruit-Train-Assign,” which makes training mandatory for all police recruits and thereby provides entry-level professionalization for the Afghan Uniformed Police.
Additionally, the Afghan government started an initiative to establish Afghan Local Police (ALP). The ALP are local police forces and will help “thicken” security and set the conditions for enduring local security, enabling increased development and governance in local areas.
Finally, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan (NATC-A) assisted the Afghan Air Force in making significant progress towards becoming a professional, fully independent, operationally capable and sustainable force by 2016. With NTM-A support, all elements of the Afghan National Security Force improved in logistics, intelligence, medical, legal and communications. However, there is still much work to be done.
Ministerial development programs, run by the U.S.-only section of NTM-A (called the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan) assisted the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior in building systems required to grow and professionalize their security ministries. Today, our advisory efforts have been reorganized and we have brought in more senior advisors with specialized skills, both civilian and military. These changes allowed NTM-A advisors to facilitate steady, incremental progress in the Afghan Ministries of Interior and Defense over the past year.
This progress includes NTM-A anti-corruption efforts that focus on preventive behavior modification, which encourages Afghan National Security Force leaders to be aggressive in their anti-corruption efforts. Some of the major efforts to stem corruption include implementing electronic funds transfers of pay to provide transparency for salaries and following International Security Assistance Force guidance on counterinsurgency contracting practices.
Both of these measures ensure that the money that the Afghan government and international community are providing to their security force are getting to the right people and not creating negative effects on soldier and police development.
NTM-A’s Afghan First and Afghan Made procurement initiatives created thousands of enduring, sustainable Afghan jobs and ensured that we are enabling indigenous manufacturers to outfit and equip the Afghan National Security Force. NTM-A is currently about 75 percent manned after receiving an influx of U.S. and NATO personnel since November 2009. Twenty-nine Coalition nations provide troops to NTM-A; another six nations have pledged future troop support.
In addition to personnel, 21 nations also supported Afghan National Security Force development through a variety of donations including infrastructure, supplies, equipment, and NATO Trust Fund deposits. Although this progress is promising, approximately eight hundred more institutional trainers are needed to fill all NATO trainer positions; a lack of these specialty trainers will undermine further progress and ultimately delay transition.
For the next year, NTM-A will assist the Afghan National Security Force in leveraging the solid foundation we collectively built. While there has been substantial progress in growth and in building the training base, and while we are optimistic about the future, we are realistic about the challenges we face. The NTM-A vision for next year is sustaining the momentum we have built.
To support this vision, NTM-A’s focus areas will be: continue growth, build support, enable forces, develop self-sustainable security systems and enduring institutions, and begin the process to professionalize the force.
The Afghan National Security Force and NTM-A have formed a strong, winning team. It is truly a team of teams to meet the challenges of the coming year – challenges that can be overcome with proper planning, effort, stewardship and resourcing.