Afghan National Army - A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids

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Afghan National Army - A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids

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  Defence Journal Pakistan (May 2014) http://www.defencejournal.com  1 Afghan National Army - “ A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids ”   Haris Khan   AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY - “A TRULY NATIONAL ARMY FOR A C OUNTRY’S DEFENSE OR A MILITIA ON STEROIDS”   Haris Khan With the US/ISAF- Afghanistan retrograde on track there are some apparently intractable issues that remain when looking at the military-political strategy for Afghanistan and its surrounding areas. A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues  bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.* This article is geared to shed light on the Afghanistan National Army’s (ANA) and Afghan  National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) capacity to deal with the security of the country post-2014 withdrawal of the ISAF apparatus. It will shed light on the structure of ANA, the manpower it consists of and its training, order of battle (Orbat), and military balance equipment. I’ll leave the Afghan National Security F orces (ANSF) for some other time to be explained in depth about its modes operandi. For the record the ANSF constitute the following; Afghan National Police (ANP) Afghan Border Police (ABP) Afghan Local Police (ALP) Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) The effectiveness of the ANA is only one element of securing peace and stability in Afghanistan. But the composition of the ANA is of critical importance in providing lasting security and stability and denying Afghanistan as a future base for international terrorism and extremism, since Afghanistan is still at war and will probably be at war long after 2014. More than a decade of Western intervention has not produced a strong and viable central government, an economy that can function without massive outside aid, or effective Afghan security forces. There are few signs that insurgents are being pushed towards defeat or will lose their sanctuaries in neighbouring countries. Efforts to rebuild the ANA have been going on for about six years, and judgments about its  progress have been mixed. In November 2009 the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) was established as a multinational military organization. After being activated the  NTM-A was tasked with providing a higher-level training for the ANA and AAFC.  Defence Journal Pakistan (May 2014) http://www.defencejournal.com  2 Afghan National Army - “ A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids ”   Haris Khan   Being that Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country, this posed the first and foremost hurdle that the trainers were faced with. Uncertainty as to which language the instructional training should occur in was a problem. It was decided it should be in English. The main focus for NTM-A was that security means that the Afghans handle the violence, not the ISAF. The Afghans themselves have to manage their districts and cities while the on-going insurgency is occurring. The known weaknesses of recent efforts in Afghanistan in creating the ANA are (1) lack of modern-style professionalism, greatly caused by illiteracy and lack of education, (2) high desertion rates/poor retention rate of soldiers, and (3) lack of equally-distributed proportional representation by all the major communities, with some of the predominantly Pathan (Pushtoon or Pakhtoon) areas such as Kandahar and Helmand contributing less than the Farsi (Dari) speaking Tajiks and Hazaras. After a somewhat rocky start, institutional training appears to have progressed well. The  programs of instruction appear sound and attuned to the needs of the Afghan army. More  problematic is the unit-level training, which depends in large part on the efforts of embedded training teams. It was relatively easier for the officer corps to be instructed in English; however, at the lower ranks enlistments this caused significant problems. It was observed by some NATO trainers that after the class was dismissed the enlisted men gravitated towards their own lingual comrades and stayed with them most of the time and conversed in their ethnic languages. In 2003, the collation (ISAF) had set a quota of 40 per cent Pashtoons and 25 per cent Tajiks for the ANA. Instead, the Tajiks, along with Uzbeks and Hazare, filled the ranks, with very few southern Pashtoons signing up. The attitude amongst the ANA troops “we should not go out on patrol and stay at respected unit’s base.” It appeared to imply units, which have non-Pushtoons in them, were unwilling to patrol Pushtoon areas and vice versa regarding Pushtoon units in non-Pushtoon areas. The latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states: In ANA Tajiks, which represent 25% of the population, now account for 41% of all troops who have been trained, and that only 30% of the troops are now Pushtoon, 12 per cent Hazari and 10 per cent Uzbek, with the rest made up of smaller ethnic groups, which is approximately the percentages of these communities in the Afghan population.  Now at its biggest size yet, 214,000 soldiers, the ANA is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, according to SIGAR. The desertion rate amongst the Pashtoon is the highest. The attrition strikes at the core of America’s exit strategy in Afghanistan: to ensure that the ANA that can take over the war and allow the United States and NATO forces to withdraw by the end of 2014.  Defence Journal Pakistan (May 2014) http://www.defencejournal.com  3 Afghan National Army - “ A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids ”   Haris Khan   According to USCENTCOM, on the day the retrograde is completed the total combined forces of ANA and ANSF should reach its planned strength of 394,000 troops, assuming that there is no large scale Pashtoon desertion. On the line is also the critical status of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the USA and Afghanistan. With the effect (BSA) at least ANA & ANSF would not be left themselves to deal with the inevitable and impending frontal onslaught by the insurgents (Taliban and other groups). BSA will assure the region that the United States will remain engaged and will not abandon Afghanistan as the US once did in 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal. The BSA is also the keystone of a much wider international commitment of several countries involving over years of ready to provide economic and security assistance to Afghanistan beyond 2015. Afghanistan’s regional neighbours, with the exception of Iran and India, also understand the importance of the BSA. President Putin of Russia, President Xi of China, and Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Sharif of Pakistan has all personally urged President Karzai to conclude the bilateral security agreement. According to some estimates the insurgencies are running at less than 50% of its capacity. It took the US and its NATO partners eight years to realize that Afghanistan is not large-scale combat; instead it’s a war of intimidation - brief fights and heavy field and aerial bombing intended to instil fear, causing the insurgence to pull back and go into hiding. General John  N. Abrams son of famous Gen Creighton W Abrams Jr (Chief of Staff of the United States Army during Vietnam War  ) said in 2003, that don’t let war in Afghanistan become “Afghanization war of attrition”; alas this is what this war has become. To build and maintain the spirit of ANA has become the central theme of US-Afghan war policy since 2009. The Americans have put all their chips on the ANA so at least they [ANA] can control and keep open the cities and highways, otherwise, if there are superficial cracks in ANA while fighting the insurgences the Americans can always provide heavy air support to breach the attack and spirit of the Taliban (Pashtoons) for the time being. Some months ago Gen. (R) Stanley MacCrystal said that ‘’…if there are problems in Afghanistan they flow into Pakistan like river K  abul.’’  For Pakistan the BSA is something which ought to happen for its security in Afghanistan. As long as the US has a visible footprint in Afghanistan, which entails giving air support to ANA and training ANA troops, Pakistan’s security parameters are more or less guaranteed. Pakistan is currently fighting a major internal insurgency (with one of its hands and legs tied) with the so-called Pakistani Pashtoon aka almost 55 groups who call themselves Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Presently there is a hodgepodge effort to deal with this insurgency that is bent on destroying the Constitution of the country and wish to impose its own brand of  perverted understanding of Islam, which is of Khawarij mind-set. For some odd reason if any  Defence Journal Pakistan (May 2014) http://www.defencejournal.com  4 Afghan National Army - “ A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids ”   Haris Khan   faction of the Pushtoon Taliban return to Kabul post 2014 things likely will become difficult for the elected government in Islamabad and other provisional capitals, hence, the possibility of popular military take over becomes very imminent with mass approval of the populace. H owever if there is no BSA the situation in Pakistan’s FATA and more or less most of Afghanistan will be open and hostile to Pakistan’s sovereignty and national security. What if there is an attack on the mainland USA and the postage stamps points straight to FATA or any area in Afghanistan? The USA will not ask the Pakistanis to do more or try to talk some sense in Kabul’s regimes but rather they’ll use air assets to bomb the area mercilessly for its attack at the mainland USA. “Even the talk of US  pull-out has started having its impact. Pakistan has started to receive more Afghan refugees than before,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani. “This shows that the people of Afghanistan too have fears,” Said Jalil Abbas Jilani Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States. “In case the bulk of the troops withdraw, the major responsibility would lie on our shoulders. Security responsibilities, previously being shared by others, then exclusively become Pakistan’s responsibility. It is certainly g oing to be a big challenge,” he said. It should also be noted here that if for some reasons the backflow of Afghan civil war into Pakistan the country will be very susceptible for a military take over because of the securities concerns of Pakistan nuclear weapons and its program. Below is the chart of the military equipment that the US and its allies have given to ANA and ANSF. This chart doesn’t include small arms (assault rifles, rocket launchers, pistols, motor rockets and its launchers, communication equipment etc)  Defence Journal Pakistan (May 2014) http://www.defencejournal.com  5 Afghan National Army - “ A Truly National Army for A Country’s Defence or A Militia on Steroids ”   Haris Khan  
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