US, NATO May Aim for Smaller Afghan Force

The failure of the training mission and high costs nation-building make the current goals unrealistic

by John Glaser, January 19, 2012

The U.S. and NATO originally planned to build up Afghanistan’s security forces to 352,000, but the failure of the training mission and some hard truths on affordability might shrink the goal down to 250,000.

The initial goal of 352,000 Afghan security forces “will go far beyond what is possible to finance by the Afghan government so we will need an engagement of the international community,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said recently.

Indeed, Afghanistan is supposed to require at least $7 billion annually in foreign aid – mostly from the  United States. But ailing European economies and a debt-ridden U.S. government are putting downward pressure on those numbers.

A central goal of the mission in Afghanistan is to train an Afghan army, but so far the army is made up of illiterate criminals and drug addicts who sometimes attack NATO soldiers and quit in droves. The rate of attrition in the Afghan army is as high as ten percent, according to some reports.

The Afghan police commander in Kandahar, General Abdul Raziq, is an illustration of this kind of failure. He has been accused of involvement in drug production, corruption, the killing and torture of civilians, et al. despite continuing to receive U.S. resources and training.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the US Commander responsible for training those Afghan forces, said in September that not a single Afghan army battalion can operate without assistance from U.S. or allied units. This places serious doubt about having a viable Afghan army in the next few years.

Last 5 posts by John Glaser