Small Wars Journal

Broken Logic and Inaccurate Information

Broken Logic and Inaccurate Information

Captain Nathan Finney, NTM-A/CSTC-A

A September 29th blog entry on 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

NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan (NTM-A)

Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan (CSTC-A)


That's it. Sorry to the rest of you - but with "Last Man Standing's" last post I think the commentary has gotten off the proper path. I deleted all posts except Steve Hynd's as he was directly called out by CPT Finney's blog post.

I've not closed comments here (yet), so stay on topic, please, and thanks. We normally don't have a problem with that around here, must be something in the air....

Bob's World

Sun, 10/03/2010 - 7:21am

A lot of focus, pressure, and hope is placed on the mission to grow a professional, sustainable ANA. It's a difficult mission.

The bigger question is probably "Why does Afghanistan even need a large national army?"

Sure they need to develop an appropriate and functional system of security forces; but considering that there really is no foreign military threat to contend with, the primary threat that this force is being built to deal with is the same type of threat that defeated the Soviet military and has stalemated the US and NATO militaries. Maybe the ANA will be better, but somehow I doubt that is feasible. I would argue that we are building a force that is like ours, but less capable, because that is what we know how to do, rather than building the force the country actually needs.

This links back to the Afghan Constitution. That document is worth 5 divisions of Taliban.

Designed to prevent what was feared from the previous regime rather than to enable the development of the country as it moves forward, the constitution has trapped the Coalition in supporting and reinforcing some wholly inappropriate and unsuitable positions, and the ANA is a glaring example.

We feared militias (as does Karzai) so instead of developing a militia-based force modeled more closely to the U.S. National Guard we developed one modeled after the Regular Army. This is problematic on a variety of levels.

A. The ethnic/regional divisions: We have what is essentially an army recruited from the northern alliance populace base employed against the Pahstun populace base. More a tool to oppress and control than to secure and defend. The Constitution centralizes all power in President Karzai, and the ANA is designed to protect and preserve that set-up.

B. Trained organized and equipped as a war-fighting army, when what is needed is a flexible augmentation to the police to surge security capabilities when and where needed as the civil emergency of the insurgency is resolved (A resolution that will come far more through reparing the government in Kabul by fixing the constitution and other similar reforms rather than through the defeat of insurgents in the countryside). A Force recruited, trained and employed locally under the control of the Governor that can ramp up or stand down as necessary and that is more connected to the populace it serves is probably more appropriate.

C. What does GIROA do with this Army once the "war" is over? Convince the West to continue to pay for it and keep it on hand to contiue to control the populace and protect the government from the same? Demobilize and dump 10s of thousands of trained young men into the unemployment pool all at once? There is no National Guard structure to receive these men, so once released the capacity is lost. Do we just start from scratch when the insurgency picks up steam again a few years down the road because we ignored the root issues such as the Constitution?

Sadly, I think this is one more case where we have been cleverly manipulated by Mr. Karzai. We are building the security force he wants rather than the one the country needs; and we have imposed upon ourself the metric of accomplishing this equally impossible and inappropriate task as part of our current exit strategy.

I apologize if this too misses the intended discussion of debating the veracity of the statistics of the ANAs growth. I just think the issue of the ANA as whole is where the real debate should be.

Captain Finney had earlier asked us at Newshoggers to post this "rebuttal". We refused as set out below:

<i>Dear Captain Finney,

Thank you for your response, especially from such an august personage as yourself.

However, as written your "rebuttal" will not be considered for inclusion on Newshoggers since it contains some important inaccuracies. However, we are willing to include an update to the original post noting that you have written to point out that an error was made by the uniformed reporter at the Pentagon Channel.

Firstly, as noted, Newshoggers simply reported what he said, and thus it is not the "blogger's assertion" but MC2 Michael Wilken's on behalf of the Pentagon Channel.

Secondly, I did indeed note that LTG Caldwell went on to say that over 100,000 had been recruited, trained and assigned into the ASC - however, that speaks nothing as to overall strength and does not, on its own, represent a 100,000 net expansion as you claim in your letter. Nor did LTG Caldwell represent it as such in the segment shown.

Thirdly, you misrepresent the post when you write that "Like his use on (sic) an inaccurate news report, Mr. Hynds 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."

The post makes no reference to US trainers who are already present in Afghanistan and working with the ASF. It is clear from the post that the trainers referred to are the 1,500 additional trainers LTG Caldwell has pressed NATO to provide, and which the Obama White House has indeed already said it will not provide unilaterally. The accusation is provably true.

On all three of these points, if "Substance is accurately reporting information" then you seem unable to provide substance even when the source text is right in front of you.

Let me know if you and the NTMA/CSTC would like me to add an update as outlined above.

Warmest regards,
Steve Hynd</i>

Captain Finney did not take us up on our offer of a clarifying update and instead ran here to tout his "rebuttal". He did not inform us of this, thus potentially depriving us of an opportunity to respond in public as we had in private. I only noticed his post here by accident.

Now, your readers know the circumstances of his post.

Regards, S. Hynd