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I’m unsure why the Pentagon gets to decide this. I mean, one assumes that the Afghan government OK’d it but you never know.
The Pentagon has authorized a substantial increase in the number of Afghan security forces it plans to train by next year, in time for President Obama’s deadline for United States combat forces to begin withdrawing from the country, military officials said Thursday.
…The new training goals would increase the size of the Afghan army from its present 102,400 personnel to 171,600 by October 2011, according to Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American officer who heads NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.
…The Afghan National Army is already planning to increase in size to 134,000 by Oct. 31 of this year, General Caldwell said. Presently there are a record 18,000 fresh recruits in training, encouraged by pay increases of up to 30 percent. They undergo an eight-month-long course run by NATO. The Pentagon decided on Wednesday to further raise that number to 171,600 by October 2011. Additionally, Afghan police forces, which now number 96,800 would increase to 109,000 this year and U.S. officials hope to further increase that to 134,000 by the following year, Caldwell said.
Previously the goals had been to increase Afghan forces to 159,000 soldiers and 123,000 policemen by 2011.
The U.S. military’s budget for training Afghan forces is now at $11.6 billion, and the increased number of personnel would be paid for out of that, according to Col. Gregory T. Breazile, spokesman for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.
Now, for one thing, the training course is only eight weeks, not eight months.
For a second, how on earth is the Afghan government ever expected to afford such a massive military and paramilitary police force structure? Back in 2002, Pentagon force planners and independent experts wondered if an army of 70,000 might be too much for its economy to ever bear and an army of as few as 30,000 was even suggested. Back then, US planners said that a 70,000 force was expected to cost “$350 million a year to train, equip and operate, and that this training can be completed in two years.” That proved wildly optimistic. The Soviet-era Afghan army, at a little more than half the end strength proposed today, was entirely beholden to foreign donors to keep it going. Remember, that $11.6 billion is just the training expense – it costs more again to keep the army and police force going. Such a massive establishment at such an exorbitant cost would make Afghanistan a satrapy of the U.S. and its allies for as long as it was in existence.
And despite claims by Gen William B Caldwell, currently in charge of training Afghan troops but once Bush’s hand-picked spinmeister for Iraq, that recruitment has spiked since Obama announced his 2011 withdrawal-that-isn’t date, that’s probably not the case.
Recruiting in Afghanistan’s harsh winter months is typically stronger than it is in the warmer months. In the spring, when construction companies resume hiring, recruiting ebbs.
[Col. Dennis Brown] is anticipating a similar drop around April. “The strategy is to over-recruit during the good months,” he said.
That Senator Carl Levin and supposedly reputable national security reporters are passing on Caldwell’s “belief” in stenographic fashion is starkly amazing, especially when you consider that, according to Caldwell, US-to-Afghan troop ratios in Helmand Province have miraculously climbed from three-to-one to an even one-to-one without any explanation of how that happened. No-one seems to be wondering, but that’s impossible unless its by stripping out all the Afghan soldiers who were meant to be doing the “hold” part of “clear, hold and build”. Someone should be asking if such a ratio in offense means we’re not doing as well at gaining anything to hold as the Pentagon would like us to think.
(Does no-one in the Village remember Caldwell from Iraq – like his famous stunt of insisting on being anonymous at the failed “EFPs from Iran” briefing even while he was the official spokesman of the US-led Multi-National Force in Iraq? The man’s mouth opens, he spins facts.)
Finally, despite all the glad-talk about raw recruitment numbers, we’re still dealing with an Afghan force plagued by desertions, illiteracy and officer corruption, one in which the number of battalions able to actually operate independently has declined, not risen. We’re being misdirected as billions we can ill afford are poured into an unsustainable boondoggle whose most likely long-term role is that of a military coup – if it doesn’t fracture into militias and warlord bands first.