The Independent, June 14, 2011
A decade on, Afghanistan lacks police force worthy of name
The US has spent more than 25 billion USD (15.4bn Pounds) to train and equip Afghan forces since 2001
By Jonathan Owen
Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces, the Independent reveals.
Almost a decade after international troops were sent in to overthrow the Taliban and help to establish a functioning democracy in Afghanistan, a combination of poor training, lack of numbers, corruption and illiteracy has left the country unable to protect its people.
Brian Martin, Ex-Marine and US mentor of Afghan National Police (ANP), instructs a student during the fire arms component of tactical training program (TTC) during the 2nd week of an 8-week course at the Regional Training Centre (RTC) in Herat, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 3, 2008. The US has spent more than US$25 billion (£15.4bn) to train and equip Afghan forces since 2001 but has not got any positive results. (Photo: Adam Ferguson / TIME)
The grim official assessment of the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is a major blow to the hopes of a troop withdrawal by 2014, a timescale that assumes the ANSF will be able to start taking the lead in fighting the Taleban from next month.
And the commander of Nato's mission to train the ANSF has admitted the task will not be complete until at least 2016.
This comes after a decade in which tens of billions of dollars have been spent building Afghan forces. Yet they remain too dependent on coalition forces, according to a report on Afghanistan from the US Department of Defence.
It cites assessments made in February that show how out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan, none are rated as independent - defined as capable "without assistance from coalition forces".
The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) will release another assessment this week, but experts are not expecting major change. There are signs of progress, with army units deemed effective "with advisers" up 45 per cent (from 42 to 61) and those effective "with assistance" rising by 73 per cent (from 49 to 85) between last September and February.
But more than half the police and army units need coalition soldiers to fight alongside them. Only a third are effective with just military advisers in support.
The report, looking at the period between last October and this March, warns: "ANA units are still too dependent on coalition forces for operations, and specifically logistical support."
A "significant shortfall" of 740 trainers and mentors "poses a strategic risk to ANSF growth and an increased risk to transition".
Citing the "slow development of governance", it warns that "despite the gains in security and in ANSF growth and development, the Afghan Government faces significant political challenges which could potentially threaten the progress made in the last six months" while "extensive bureaucracy and areas of corruption continue to present serious challenges".
The US has spent more than US$25 billion (£15.4bn) to train and equip Afghan forces since 2001. Literacy remains a problem. Although more than 63,000 ANSF have completed literacy training since November 2009, none is above the reading age of a 9-year-old.
Speaking in Washington last week, Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell, commander of Nato's training mission in Afghanistan, hinted that politically driven timescales do not match reality.
"As far as the training mission goes, we won't complete doing what we need to do till about 2016, 2017."
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