Caldwell: Make our investment last in Afghanistan

Monday, August 01, 2011

The commander of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan told military and industry leaders at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare breakfast meeting June 9 that we must make the investment we are putting into transitioning the Afghanistan National Security Forces to assume the full security lead in that country last.

Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who has also commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission – Afghanistan since November 2009 asked: "What’s the way ahead; what’s in store for the future [in Afghanistan]?"

The goal is to have the Afghanistan National Security Force, or the ANSF, transition to a "full security lead by the end of 2014," Caldwell said.

He stressed that the Army and the coalition forces are making progress to reach this goal, but in the two years he has been deployed, "there are new challenges, and I’m glad we have these challenges."

For example, in 2009, the ANSF was being trained in First Aid, now in 2011, "we are building a national medical program and system."

Adding, "In 2009, we didn’t have the resources we have today. We are making progress."

But he asked again: "Will it last?"

"How will we achieve transition and make it last? We must make it self-sustaining, and worth the investment and the resources we and members of the coalition have made."

The AFSF has increased its formation to 100,000 strong – trained and equipped – but Caldwell said it has to grow another 60,000 to take over the country’s security mission.

Initially all training was done by the Army and NATO coalition forces, but now 50 Afghan civilian men and women are working on the training staff to train Afghans for duty with the security force.

"This is a whole new ballgame," Caldwell said.

Adding, "We have been here for over nine years, now we are developing the skills and capacity needed to protect the Afghan people and serve the nation. We are training police to standard with a long-term plan."

Also important in developing the proper security force is the development of the security ministries that must be trained and built to lead the force.

Caldwell said the equipment and infrastructure are a significant part of the investment we are making. "The [ANSF] must have the tools for the job, and the skills to maintain them. We must ask: "Is it affordable? Is it sustainable? What can the Afghans afford into the future?"

The security force must also be trained to be professional. To build this quality into the force, officer and noncommissioned officer education is extremely important.

Caldwell said the recent progress is this area has been amazing. "We have an NCO academy and now the 4th class is being taught by Afghan NCOs."

One of the greatest challenges facing transition and training is literacy.

As the Army and coalition forces attempt to leverage the "extraordinary potential of the Afghan people, literacy is the most important aspect of our mission," Caldwell said.

The Afghans have to able to read a manual, and because of the high rate of illiteracy in this country, teachers have been employed to deal specifically with this problem.

The Army, according to Caldwell has been the "backbone of these training and transition efforts and nearly half of the resources necessary to perform these essential tasks have come from Army battalions that have been "game changers."

"American soldiers – as advisers and trainers – have built trust with the Afghan people. They are great mentors and role models," he said.

The breakfast was sponsored by ATK, an AUSA sustaining member company.