With all eyes turned from Marjeh to Kandahar as the next big offensive location, it’s critical for the U.S. and Coalition forces to have not only the support of the Afghan citizens but the participation and cooperation of the Afghan National Security Forces.
On a recent trip to Kandahar, where it was a cool 104 degrees, we visited the Kandahar Regional Training Center, where the Afghan National Police attend their basic training course. Often overshadowed for the Afghan National Army, whose development in the past has received more attention and funds, the ANP are being aggressively developed. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan commander, is concerned with police development, especially Afghan National Civil Order Police, so our visit centered on the training center and several ANP stations around the city.
The RTC, commanded by Afghan Gen. Nassurullah Zarifi, is currently training 316 police in their six-week program; for some recruits, it’s the first time they’ve received training although they’ve been in the police for months or even years. Part of the new NTM-A focus of recruit, train and assign is designed to find those who have not yet attended basic training and ensure they’re trained and supplied with the necessary tools to do the job. New recruits are required to attend training before being sent to their units; this technique is also helping reduce attrition and AWOL rates.
Zarifi and his staff face several challenges to police development including not having enough instructors and a lack of literate recruits, a common problem across the board for Afghan army and police training centers. According to the RTC commander, last year, 14 instructors were injured and four assassinated, including his own son. Despite this, he said the instructors, many who live in Kabul, refuse to stop training new police officers.
“We bravely come to our jobs and our duty, and even when the enemy warns us, we still come,” Zarifi said.
During his visit, Caldwell also stopped at several of Kandahar’s 11 police sub-stations, visiting with Afghan and U.S. Army military police, who are partnering with the Afghan police in a cooperation concept known as “Hamkari.” This required a lot of walking and getting in and out of the up armored humvee’s we were traveling in … did I mention it was only 104 degrees that day?
Some of the U.S. soldiers, including recent West Point graduate, 2nd Lt. Lisa Ernst, live and work alongside their Afghan counterparts, showing the true meaning of partnership. For several days each week, Ernst and her Soldiers do without basics like showers and until recently, even port-a-potty’s, to ensure the ANP receive additional training and protection.
With an increased focus on training and recruiting, U.S. and Afghan leaders say they are on target to meet the Afghan National Security Forces growth goals of 109,000 police and 134,000 Army by October 2010. Some of this is due to increased training capacity and larger classes going through basic training programs and some from anti-corruption initiatives and pay raises that have helped reduce retention. Despite all the recent successes with recruiting and training, one of the biggest problems both U.S. and Afghan leaders say is hurting growth is a lack of experienced enlisted and officer leadership. As the backbone of any military force, NCO’s use their knowledge, experience and wisdom to develop younger recruits, but they take time to build.
Training, education and experience are essential to building leadership; with the help of U.S. and NATO forces, the ANSF is working on the first two, but only time will bring the last and perhaps most, important quality.