US General: Afghan Military Can’t Do Much More Until October 2011

Desertions and Death Hinder Afghan Security Forces' Growth

The US goal to dramatically expand the Afghan military continues to struggle today, as Lt. Gen William Caldwell admitted that the security forces won’t have enough manpower to even attempt to expand into new areas until at least October of next year.

When asked how this was to be reconciled with the official July 2011 drawdown date Caldwell would only sasy “we are aware of the date.” The US and its NATO allies have been emphasizing the growth of domestic security forces for years, but always to disastrous failures.

Caldwell cited a number of difficulties but they all seem to center around the low quality of recruits. Only 14-18% are even literate, and nearly half desert almost immediately. The US has been pushing a literacy program to try to help.

But this only goes so far. The reality is that the quality of recruits is low because these are not desirable jobs. Security forces are poorly paid and large numbers of them are killed or wounded.

Caldwell said he estimated that to fill the 56,000 positions they would need to recruit and train at least 141,000 more Afghans. With training already slowed because of Ramadan that seems to be a tall order.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of