Operations in Afghanistan - Defence Committee Contents

4  Training of the Afghan National Security Forces

109. A critical component for a successful handover of security to the Afghan Government will be a well trained and prepared Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). We recognise that considerable progress has been made in training the ANSF since the introduction of the NATO Training Mission in November 2009 following the adoption of the McChrystal Strategy. Much greater resource has been put into training the ANSF with 1,300 more trainers being provided by 32 countries. Another 17 nations are contributing supplies and other assets.

Afghan National Army

110. The number of recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA) has increased. The ANA grew by 58 per cent from November 2009 to November 2010 to 137,000 but attrition rates [the proportion of those recruits leaving the Forces] are still high though decreasing. Retention levels of the ANA (that is those remaining in service) have been over 60 per cent since November 2009 peaking at 86 per cent in May 2010 and standing at 61 per cent in May 2011.[123] General Richards told us that the recruitment and training of the ANA was going well, ahead of planned targets:

    We are ensuring that the ANSF grows in the very aggressive time frame that an outstanding American General, Bill Caldwell, is leading on. [...] Bill has told me that the 31 March target for the ANA was a total of 155,000. On 31 March, the total was standing at 159,000, so it is ahead of its numbers [...]The police target was 122,000, and the total stood at 125,000 at the end of March. The targets for 31 October are 171,600 and 134,000 respectively, and [...] they are ahead of them.[124]

111. The composition of the ANSF needs, as far as possible, to reflect the composition of Afghan society. Southern Pashtuns are still underrepresented in both the ANA and the police although recruitment is targeted on increasing the number.[125] The number of female recruits to the ANA is very small—approximately 30 a year—but increasing.[126]

112. On 5 July 2011, Prime Minister Cameron and President Karzai announced the creation of the Afghan National Officer Academy. The institution will be modelled on the UK army academy at Sandhurst and will aim to produce high quality platoon leaders. It will open its doors in 2013, and accept 1,350 recruits annually with some 120 UK military personnel involved in the training.[127]

113. In addition to training the ANA to be competent fighting soldiers, the NATO Training Mission has started to train the ANA for support operations such as logistics.[128] Brigadier Levey told us that the ANA was being trained in the laws of conflict, religious and cultural affairs, looking after civilians and the moral component. Leadership is an issue for the training of the ANA especially at NCO level.[129]

114. Literacy rates amongst recruits are still low for both the ANA and the ANP at some 14 per cent. Training of the ANSF has focused on improving the literacy of soldiers and the police to a basic level to improve the quality of the personnel and of their training.[130]

115. The Helmand Annual Review 2010 lists challenges in the ANA as "a lack of leadership across the chain of command, poor literacy levels, slow construction of improved facilities, difficulties resupplying and maintaining equipment, and limited support capabilities, including aviation, intelligence, counter-IED and medical facilities".[131] General Richards said that the jury was still out on whether it was possible to institutionalise the necessary qualities in the ANA to sustain it beyond 2014 but that General Caldwell and many British officers were aggressively pursuing that aim.[132] Partnering with ISAF Forces is seen as a crucial element in preparing the ANSF to take over responsibility for security.

116. There have been significant improvements in the training of the ANA but there is much progress yet to be made before the ANA is ready to take over responsibility for security in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. We welcome General Richards' assurance that the aim of a sustainable ANA is being aggressively pursued but the MoD must maintain its focus on training the ANA, in qualitative as well as quantitative terms.

Afghan National Police

117. There are five main pillars of the ANP:

  • The Afghan Uniform Police provide community policing, traffic policing and the fire service;
  • The Afghan National Civil Order Police provides civil order patrols, an anti-riot capability and a crisis or counter terror response capability within urban areas;
  • The Afghan Border Police facilitates freedom of movement, encourages the development of commerce, prevents illegal border crossings and polices airport points of entry;
  • The Afghan Anti-Crime Police provide specialist police expertise, counter terrorism, counternarcotics, Major Crime Task Force (governance and anti-corruption) and forensics; and
  • The Ministry of the Interior enablers such as logistics, medical, training and education.[133]

In addition, in July 2010, the Afghan Government announced a new initiative agreed with General Petraeus to train and recruit some 10,000 personnel as local, community police separate from the ANP.

118. There has been increased training for many recruits to the various branches of the Afghan National Police (ANP) but attrition rates are still very high especially in the Civil Order Police.[134] The various branches of the ANP stood at some 125,000 members in March 2011, ahead of the target of 122,000.[135]

119. The establishment of the Helmand Police Training Centre in 2010 and the Joint Security Academy Shoarb in early 2010 in Helmand has aided the training of the ANP - 2,700 police have attended the 8 week basic police training course. A training course for NCOs was held in Helmand for the first time in 30 years at the Helmand centre. [136] There are some 1,000 women in the police force and the Minister of the Interior has set a target of a total of 1,200 new women recruits a year.[137]

120. Lindy Cameron told us that she had seen an improvement in the behaviour of the police in Helmand albeit from a very low base:

    [...] we are not going to be over-optimistic about this. We are starting from an extremely low base. Indeed, when I went to Helmand a year ago, one of my biggest concerns was actually the reputation of the police force at local level in areas like Marjah where, for example, the historic corruption of the police force was one of the reasons why that area turned to the Taliban in the first place.

    You are talking about a slow-building confidence, but the fact is that people now see a police force that they have confidence in. They have confidence that they have been drug tested. They can have confidence that they have been trained in how to hold their weapons and in how to man a guard post effectively. There was a visible difference in the way that police behave. You were talking about a police training centre both in Lashkar Gah and the one in Camp Shurabak in a way that is slowly building people's confidence. The reason why I am sure of that is, because when you talk to people in Marjah about what they want, they no longer say, "We want anybody but the local police force." They say, "We want you to recruit and train police from our area who understand us."[138]

121. The Helmand Annual Review 2010 states that "the lack of trained officers and poor literacy rates within the police inhibit the police's transition from a paramilitary force into a police service that supports law enforcement". It also states "the legacy of abusive and corrupt police hinders efforts to improve the population's perception of the police, although a survey noted a rise in public confidence in the police in the last quarter of 2010".[139]

122. There is much progress yet to be made before the ANP is sufficiently reliable to take on its share of the responsibility for security by the end of 2014. The UK should continue to insist that the international coalition maintain the momentum on training the ANP and, in particular, on reducing the level of corruption in the ANP.

Afghan National Security Forces

123. One of the crucial components of transferring full responsibility for Afghanistan to the Afghan Government is the transfer of security to the ANSF as a whole including the ANA and the ANP. General Parker told us how important the relationship between the ANSF and the Government would be:

    The general loyalty of the Afghan National Security Forces is something that we need to help. We need to nurture it. The relationships that the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Interior have with President Karzai and with that close-in group of people, the Cabinet, are something that we must not undermine. In my job, I was very conscious that one needed to sustain the confidence of the President and the Cabinet in his armed forces so that they felt that they were doing what was right for the country. We need to continue to do more to that so that the Security Forces have the confidence of the higher level of Government.[140]

124. General Parker also stressed the need to build capacity in the ANSF as well as its size and that the capabilities of the ANSF were still thin:

    [...] The high-level point is that we have grown—we have done "growth"; what we have not done is "capacity". Are we doing sufficient to build capacity inside that growth? Yes, we are starting to, but we are doing it in phases. We have a lot of what they call attrition. Now we are starting to build better offices, better schools, and better cycles, so that people come off the front line. All those things are being built and they will take time. You can build the number to 137,000 in the year, but have you got the capabilities? No, that is thin and we need to continue to build that.[141]

125. We recognise that much hard work has gone into the training and partnering with the ANSF, in particular, in enabling the physical and conceptual components of fighting power but we remain concerned that the training and development of what the British Army calls the moral component—leadership, discipline, culture, ethics and anti-corruption—is crucial to ensure the long term professional capability of the ANSF.

126. General William Caldwell, Commander of the NATO Training Mission believes that they will reach the target for the ANSF of 305,000 personnel and that the ANSF will be ready to take the lead for security by the end of 2014. The success of the transfer of responsibility for security in the first seven areas will highlight outstanding issues and problems.[142] We deal with transition arrangements in more detail in Part 6. We are of the opinion that the ANSF will require significant support after the transition. We await with interest the assessment of the success of the transition of the first seven areas, in particular that of Lashkar Gah.

123   Ev 202  Back

124   Q 695 Back

125   Qq 238, 695 Back

126   Q 247 Back

127   Prime Minister's statement on Afghanistan 5 July 2011, www.Number10.gov.uk Back

128   Q 245 Back

129   Qq 242-243 Back

130   Qq 154, 158, 245 Back

131   Helmand Annual Review 2010, www.mod.uk/aboutdefence/corporatepublications Back

132   Q 694 Back

133   Ev 203 Back

134   Ev 202 Back

135   Q 694 Back

136   Q 158 Back

137   Ev 202 Back

138   Q 157 Back

139   Helmand Annual Review 2010, www.mod.uk/aboutdefence/corporatepublications Back

140   Q 242 Back

141   Q 244 Back

142   Speech by Lieutenant General William B Caldwell, Commander, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, at Chatham House on 12 April 2011, www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/papers/view/-/id/1047/ Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 17 July 2011