Monday, September 21, 2009

One False Choice: More ANA Now

Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, is pushing for more Afghan units rather than more American ones as Gen. McChrystal's request for more troops becomes public.

This really is a false choice, because there is no way that we can somehow magically find tens or hundreds of thousands of new Afghan National Army troops to throw into the fray. Sure, having more indigenous forces do the work is always the right idea for counter-insurgency--if they are capable. But insta-training is not going to lead to capable troops, but rather probably more collateral damage, greater distrust between civilians and army units and between ANA and the NATO forces, and wasted effort.

If we send more forces to Afghanistan, some of those will clearly be used to ramp up the training of the ANA further and create more Observer, Mentor, Liaison Teams [OMLT or Omelets]. Training is a priority, but it is not a substitute for folks who can do the difficult work.

Levin would be right in pushing for increases in the force levels planned for the Afghan army, but that is different than asking for more troops now.

And to be clear, training the ANA and the Afghan police is not an easy task, given the wide gulfs in literacy and, ahem, values. The stories coming out about Man Boy Love Thursdays should be taken quite seriously as part of the challenging environment in which NATO is operating.

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