The NATO Training Mission – Direct from Afghanistan

The NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan

By: 13337 Maj. Gen. Stuart Beare – Deputy Commander – Police in NTM-A

In the spring to fall of 2011, Canadian Forces Civilian Police are joining NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM –A) in substantial numbers. By the time over 900 CF and several dozen Civilian Police fully join the team, Canada will be the second largest national contingent of the 33 nations serving in NTM-A.

Each of us has our own lens through which we have seen the intervention and mission in Afghanistan evolve – from the earliest days of the 3PPCLI Battle Group in Kandahar in 2002, to Kabul in 2004, and back to Kandahar in 2006. Throughout that period of time conditions have changed significantly, huge investments and sacrifices have been made, and substantial progress has been made in many areas; particularly in Afghanistan’s Army and Police forces since the formation of NTM-A in November 2009 and the incredibly expanded scope and investment being made in the training mission.

Today as Deputy Commander – Police in NTM-A, I am proud to be a member of the team that is a key component to sustaining and accelerating this progress. I couldn’t be happier that Canada, the Canadian Forces, and our Civilian Police partners are becoming a substantially larger component of this effort from within NTM-A. Indeed, as members of the NTM-A team, we are playing a dynamic role in a vital mission that touches the whole of Afghanistan’s National Security Forces.

Without being here it is hard to appreciate the incredible progress made by the Afghan National Army and Police in recent years. Notwithstanding the many challenges, as well as the vital role NTM-A has played, and the role it will continue to play as we work towards the Afghan Army and Police’s sustained and irreversible progress.

Let’s look at this progress as seen through the story of a man named Wakil, an Afghan policeman who has served in a Southern Province for ten years and who lost an arm while fighting the Taliban.

Prior to NATO’s changed approach and commitment of new resources in 2009, Wakil, like most of his fellow police officers, never received any formal police training, wasn’t paid an adequate wage, and was never taught to read and write. He was recruited and assigned locally without formalized training. In addition, Wakil could not rely on his superiors for leadership because they also had never been formally trained.

Notwithstanding the efforts of many bilateral partners to the Police and Army training effort, lack of resources and an inadequate investment in the systems yielded an Afghan policeman and soldier who were poorly equipped and untrained. Thus, they were unable to successfully conduct his duties without significant Coalition Force assistance.

Afghan Police officers like Wakil were not paid a basic “living wage.” He received less than $100 per month, not enough salary to sustain his family. Wakil and 86% of his peers entered the force totally illiterate and innumerate. They were part of a “lost generation” who had no access to school. He could not write his own name or read his weapon serial number. With few training options, it was likely that he could spend his entire police career totally illiterate.

Most of Wakil’s uniform items, such as boots, tactical gear, clothing, and other equipment were made outside of Afghanistan. The quality of his police equipment was generally low. He was put on the streets without the basic equipment and vehicles needed to perform his duty.

The National Police accessions model used at that time was to recruit a new policeman, then assign him to a police district with the intention to train him at some future point.

Many of Wakil’s leaders were untrained or minimally trained due to a lack of nationally standardized training. While there were some great programs in certain provinces, the entire police training effort was disjointed and unsynchronized. For both Army and Police the quantity of leader programs were inadequate for the size of the force.

Today the story of Wakil and development of the Afghan National Army and Police have dramatically changed. All across Afghanistan there has been an incredible “untold story”; a story that is underwritten by a dramatic increase in both the quantity of the force, quality of training effort, and in efforts to build effective and enduring Afghan institutions.

Today’s Policemen and Soldiers are better trained because patrolman now receive six weeks of formal training, growing to eight weeks this summer, and soldiers receive high quality eight week training. This training is now delivered by a growing number of Afghan professional instructors who are being expertly coached and mentored by a growing body of professional military and international police trainers in the 70 training centers across Afghanistan.

Today’s soldier and policemen is well paid and receives a living wage commensurate with the national standard of living. New soldiers and patrolmen receive $165 USD per month with bonus and incentive payments that raise pay up to $250 in high risk areas. They are also eligible for a number of specialist pay incentives. Over 80% of the ANP and 95% of the ANA now receive their pay via electronic funds transfer or Pay by Phone; greatly reducing the opportunity for predatory corruption and the pilfering of his salary.

Like 86% of fellow recruits, Wakil entered the police totally illiterate and innumerate. Today however all students receives mandatory literacy training during recruit, junior leader, and vocational training. Recruits receive at least a basic level of literacy over their first years in the force with incentives and training options for greater literacy education throughout their careers. Today there are over 170,000 Afghan police and soldiers trained or in literacy training; over half of the current strength of the Afghan National Security Force.

The international community’s focused efforts over the last 20 months have yielded an Afghan policeman and soldier who are equipped with quality weapons, vehicles, tactical gear and technical equipment. In addition to the near $8B USD invested in vehicles, radios, uniforms and weapons, over $10B USD has been invested in facilities, such as training sites, headquarters, and educational centers across Afghanistan.

The accessions model fully instituted for the ANP today is to Recruit, Train and Assign or R-T-A. Today’s recruits receive mandatory basic police training before being assigned to a police district. Leaders are entering the force with better training than their predecessors. Staff Colleges are providing continuing education and professional development to all levels of the ANA and ANP. These courses are elevating the quality of leaders and building a foundation for professionalization.

In addition to basic training, people like Wakil may also receive additional specialty training, which did not exist 16 months ago. Courses like EOD, SWAT, Driver Training and Logistics are providing them with specialty skills that will make the ANP and ANA more independent of Coalition Forces.

After nearly 10 years as an untrained and illiterate Police Officer, Wakil graduated this spring from a southern Afghanistan Police Training Center. He has been now armed with the knowledge, skill, and basic level of literacy that enable him to truly embark on a career of service to his people, alongside others who share the same investment in them. To fully appreciate the dramatic impact mandatory literacy training is having, listen to what Wakil had to say about his literacy training experience:

“Most importantly we are being taught to read and write and to count. This knowledge gives me greater standing when I go back to my post in my community; it means I will be given more respect and have the same status as the village elders due to this knowledge. Through this I can better serve my country and protect the people I am responsible for.”

Wakil’s experience has been shared by thousands of others, both Army and Police, leading to a second chapter of this “Untold Story”; that being exponential growth of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Since January 2010 ISAF and international forces have grown by approximately 40,000 troops. In that same period of time combined Afghan Army and Police have grown by over 100,000. The combined Army and Police continue to grow ahead of the 305,000 target for this fall and are on track to achieve 352,000 in fall 2012. With the near 300,000 ANSF, alongside ISAFs 170,000, the Afghan people are witnessing a shift in the quality and presence of security forces they have never seen before.

In short, Wakil serves now as a trained, equipped, well led, and enabled police officer within an ever expanding, increasingly professional, self-generating and sustaining ANP working alongside the ANA. Together they are serving Shohna ba Shohna (shoulder to shoulder) with incredibly capable coalition force partners to protect the 30 million people of Afghanistan.

Looking to the future, NTM-A will focus heavily on building even more quality and capacity into the Army and Police while sustaining this incredible growth and progress – specifically:

  • Training over 2000 Afghan instructors who are capable of leading and training the Army and Police.
  • Aggressively developing Afghan leaders to fill the leadership needs of the growing force in the field and in institutions.
  • Building more literacy and vocational skills through mandatory literacy and the specialty skill courses needed for key support functions like logistics. communications, medical services, air operations and more.
  • Instilling an ethos of Stewardship at all levels of training and education to protect the investments of the international community.
  • Continuing to develop enduring institutions, self-sustainable systems, and enablers required for a self-sustaining and professional force.

The vision is for the Afghan government to take security responsibility and leadership by the end of 2014. Our shared mission is to ensure that this mission succeeds. It is the key to transition.

As I write this, today in Kandahar Canadian troops are doing heroic work in clearing, holding and in developing key districts alongside a growing team of Coalition Partners, and, most importantly, Afghan Army and Police forces. As Brig. Gen. Dean Milner tells it, he is working with Afghan security forces in numbers and with capabilities we could only dream of two years ago.

Milner and his combined Afghan / NATO team represent an incredible investment in national treasure. They represent a legacy of an impressive and vitally important period of security operations in some of the toughest parts of Afghanistan and they are doing themselves and their predecessors proud.

At the same time Canadian Troops and Civilian Police are serving and joining NTM-A in impressive numbers. They are adding fuel to the engine that is growing and developing Afghan security forces. They are joining NTM-A as we focus further on developing Afghan Ministries and their institutions that will ensure these security forces endure.

In sum, Canada’s shift to NTM-A brings much needed energy, capacity, knowledge and skill to a mission that will ensure Afghan Army and Police forces can serve and protect the people of Afghanistan across the entirety of their country, increasingly, and then ultimately, on their own.