Foreign Policy Blogs

"Without time, without patience, it is impossible."

The above words were spoken by Brigadier General Carmelo Burgio, the Italian officer responsible for developing the Afghan police force, as The New York Times reported yesterday.  Recruiting is going well, if we just focus on the numbers.  The target size for the Afghan National Army for October 2010 – 134,000 – was reached in August.  The October 2010 target police force size was 109,000, and it now has about 120,000.

The state of these forces, though, is not very good.  The attrition rate is 3% per month, and, as the reports about the Marja offensive earlier this year indicate, the performance of the Afghan army leaves much to be desired.  Ambassador Eikenberry warned of these things in his leaked memo criticizing the counterinsurgency strategy last year:

We overestimate the ability of Afghan security forces to take over.  Success of the proposed counterinsurgency strategy hinges upon Afghan forces steadily assuming responsibility for security and fully taking over this duty by 2013… The Army’s high attrition and low recruitment rates for Pashtuns in the south are crippling.  Simply keeping the force at current levels requires tens of thousands of new recruits every year to replace attrition losses and battlefield casualties; those requirements would steepen dramatically under the proposed strategy.  Building an effective Afghan National Police, which is in many ways more crucial to extend the Afghan National Police, which is in many ways more crucial to extend the Afghan government’s reach into villages and districts, will prove even tougher.

This is especially a problem given that the U.S.’s goal is to leave Afghan in a state of civil war in which the Kabul government has the upper hand.  As the General Burgio states, it takes time to develop adequate security forces, and without that time, the effort will not suceed.