Are the Afghans ready?

This story originally appeared on Jun 15th but it is one that is very applicable a month later. 

It took the U.S.-led coalition $106 million to build Afghanistan’s largest police training center, while insurgents needed only a single mortar shell to show the challenges facing the Afghan security forces.

The round crashed down and exploded within the grounds of the facility during its inauguration Wednesday, sending panicked police recruits crawling across the floor of a meeting hall and prompting bodyguards to bundle one of Afghanistan’s vice presidents and the government minister in charge of police forces into helicopters and flee.

No one was hurt, but the attack pointed to the serious gaps in security, as NATO spends billions to build a modern police force out of a recruitment pool that is almost entirely illiterate and remains terrified of Taliban attacks even after graduation.

“We’re dealing with a lost generation,” said U.S. Maj. Gen. James Mallory, who helps oversee NATO’s training mission.

Also Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed eight people in an attack on a governor’s office in the northeast and another killed three civilians in a province along the Pakistani border.

The U.S. Congress has set aside nearly $30 billion since the start of the Afghan war to develop the country’s army and police force. By the end of this year, NATO estimates it will have spent $20 billion in two years — most of it U.S. money — toward the same goal as the coalition prepares for a planned 2014 withdrawal from the country.

The National Police Training Center in Wardak, where the walls are still covered with fresh paint and new riot helmets sit on shelves, is part of the coalition plan to meet its goal of having about 157,000 policemen on the street before it leaves. The center will be capable of teaching classes of 3,000 recruits at a time with French trainers and Afghan instructors. The police hope to have 134,000 officers by October, up from 115,584 at the end of last year.

But training starts at the absolute basics, as nearly all Afghan recruits come into the class illiterate — “a lost generation” born in Afghan’s decades of conflicts, Mallory said.

The entire story can be found at

The reason I am just now writing about this story is because of the handover that has started to happen. 

MEHTERLAM, Afghanistan — In this city of 100,000, people are scared to wander out at night, the chief judge was recently fired for allegedly collaborating with insurgents, officials accuse each other of corruption and the police force is barely large enough to patrol the streets.

As of this week, Afghan forces are in charge of security, replacing the Americans who still keep insurgents from swarming into town through raids in the surrounding valleys of Laghman province.

The tenuous peace in Mehterlam shows the challenges Afghan authorities are facing as the U.S.-led coalition hands over responsibility for more parts of the country. The big question is whether Afghan forces are up to the job.

By the end of next week, seven spots on the Afghan map will officially be under Afghan control – a process that will continue until 2014, when the whole country will be in Afghan hands

The first round of transition has so far been largely cosmetic, reflecting the worries over the readiness of Afghan forces. It’s hard to point to any new responsibilities that Afghans are taking on. NATO troops are not moving out of bases in the transition areas, they’ll just officially operate under the oversight of Afghan forces.
Many of the areas transitioning in this first group never had many NATO troops, such as Panjshir and Bamiyan provinces, along with the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Herat in the west. The capital, Kabul, has nominally been operating under Afghan control for years. And the others – Lashkar Gah in the south and Mehterlam in the east – are cities that are still largely kept safe by the international forces surrounding them.

Of those two, Mehterlam is the one which most concerns international and Afghan officials. While the city is relatively safe compared with much of eastern Afghanistan, it is surrounded by insurgent havens and there’s very little local governance or security.
The city’s police force has just a few dozen officers. The chief can request officers from other areas if needed, but even the province-wide force has fewer than 1,000 police, according to U.S. military trainers.

“We do not have the numbers of police we need,” said city police chief Shah Mahmood. He said he was pushing his officers to their limit and stressed to them on Wednesday – the first full day of Afghan control – that they need to redouble efforts and cover the city with patrols. Others in the city said they were worried about understaffed checkpoints on the edges of town.

This story can be found at

So it makes me wonder is our military faking progress in Afghanistan again like they did in 2005-2007? Back then, we forcefully handed over control of pay to the Afghans and embedded training teams were forced to rate units as more competent than they really were. Leadership advertised false numbers of the Afghan Security Forces to make the Army and Police look for populated than they really were. We also always had an “Afghan face” on every mission to make it look like they were leading the mission when in reality they were nothing more than being a hood ornament on the entire mission. 

So now there is a lot of publicity (as evident in the stories quoted above) around the fact that we are handing over regions to the Afghans to secure, but I am convinced this is all a facade to support the President’s doctrine of pulling out of Afghanistan by 2014. 

These guys are not ready, and not for us not trying. They are not ready for a number of reasons, some of which is our fault and a lot for their own. I mean if you ask your kid to mow the lawn,  do the laundry or wash dishes, but they keep screwing up to taking too long, what do most parents do? They usually step up and just do it themselves in order to get it done. 

Well guess what many in the Afghan forces are doing? Why should they get out of bed and step up to do the hard things if the coalition is doing it for them? They aren’t motivated to, that is why. They are not held accountable, and most have no motivation to because it is largely an ” I got mine” type of society. 

Some may ask what it will take to make them ready, and I can tell you in my opinion it is going to take what I have been saying since 2006 and that is to eradicate the corruption and hold them accountable for their actions. Until leaders in the military and civilian governments are punished for their corruption and crimes against their own country then there will never be a motivation to do what is right. 


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