Captain Nathan Finney, NTM-A/CSTC-A
A September 29th blog entry on Newshoggers.com has made the rounds lately, claiming to refute the facts reported by the top NATO commander for training the Afghan National Security Force in Brussels last week. Steve Hynd, the author of the blog, based his entire argument on an inaccurate report made by a young reporter at the Pentagon Channel, not the words of LTG Bill Caldwell himself. The beginning of the news clip that Mr. Hynd used to jumpstart his broken logic opens with a young sailor inaccurately quoting LTG Caldwell as saying that "since last September the ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] actually declined by 1,200" members. The accurate quote would have been that when NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan was activated and LTG Caldwell took command last November, his initial assessment determined that, due to astronomically high attrition rates, in September 2009 the Afghan National Security Force had lost a net of 1,200 soldiers and police. If Mr. Hynd had listened to the clip when LTG Caldwell spoke, he actually refutes the blogger's assertion. He states that "in the last 10 months alone the ANSF has been able to recruit, train and assign over 100,000 young men and women recruits." I'll point that out again -- the Afghan National Security Force expanded by approximately 100,000 net soldiers and police since last November.
There are many reasons that the quantity of the Afghan National Security Force grew so quickly in the last 10 months, as well as improving in quality. One reason is the increase of professional trainers from NATO and other troop contributing nations. From a beginning of about a 25% manning level, personnel from 19 different nations have now increased it to 82%, creating a higher level of training, including improving an instructor-to-student ratio in many courses from 1:79 to 1:29. While there remain requirements for more trainers to sustain the momentum of improvement in the Afghan National Security Force, the support of the international community has been amazing. This support includes trainers from the U.S. Like his use on an inaccurate news report, Mr. Hynd's accusation that LTG Caldwell is trying to get trainers from around the world only because the U.S. has failed to provide them is also false. An example of this is the female drill instructors from the Army Reserve that were sent to train Afghan female officer candidates. Like many other requirements filled by the U.S. and other nations supporting the NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan, these soldiers have made a great impact by developing a new generation of Afghan leaders.
While Mr. Hynd is wildly inaccurate in most of his blog, the issue of attrition certainly is an issue that we continue to fight. Like most areas in the Afghan National Security Force, attrition has improved across the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. In some formations, including those in constant battle with the Taliban in the south, it remains higher than the level needed to expand their end strength while also professionalizing their force so that they can become self-sustaining. Many measures have been taken to combat this issue, including an increase in recruitment to meet requirements, increasing pay to a living wage, partnering coalition forces to support further professional training and provide air and logistic support, and developing a predictable rotation cycle in and out of highly-contested areas.
Finally, let me address the idea of substance that Mr. Hynd casually throws in at the end of the article. Substance is accurately reporting information. Substance is providing thoughtful and professional analysis of an issue. Substance is something that is absent in Mr. Hynd's September 29th blog.
I invite those who wish to report and discuss these substantive issues, and accurately, to visit Afghanistan to observe the progress we have made in the last year. There are more than enough areas to improve upon, but we are on the right path to developing a self-reliant, self-sustaining Afghan National Security Force.
Captain Nathan Finney
Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan (CSTC-A)