The United States will increase the number of American military trainers in Afghanistan by 800 in the next six months, an increase of nearly 25 percent of the current level.
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell explained to reporters that the planned reduction in combat troops requires an increase in trainers, without elaborating on the real difference between the two. There are reportedly 3,300 US trainers currently in Afghanistan, and another 1,800 international trainers.
Afghan security forces are tentatively scheduled to take over responsibility for national security by 2014, the year some say will see an exit of all international combat troops. But after ten years of training Afghans, at an annual cost of $6 billion, not a single Afghan army battalion can operate without assistance from US or allied units.
Two of the approximately 180 Afghan National Army battalions are consider by Lt. Gen. Caldwell to operate “independently.” But when pressed by reporters, Caldwell admitted that even these two “independent” battalions still require US support for their maintenance, logistics, intelligence support, and medical systems.
Additionally, the US-supported local militias tasked with helping to transition from NATO security to Afghan security have been committing atrocious human rights abuses. In March 2011, General Petraeus told the US Senate that the Afghan Local Police are “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capacity to secure itself,” yet they are known to have committed “serious abuses, such as killings, rape, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids.”
Caldwell estimated US trainers would be need in Afghanistan until 2017, although some have estimated even a significant drawdown of combat troops at 2024.
Given the above, optimistic assessments from the Pentagon and positive rhetoric from politicians about withdrawing in the foreseeable future seem to be more politically motivated towards the next election season than accurate appraisals.