The Chief of Army Staff, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, has said that the military of Afghanistan will become operationally independent by 2014, the deadline by which the majority of foreign forces are set to leave Afghanistan. According to the Chief of Army Staff, 60% of operations carried out by the Afghan National Army are done independently and without any input from the ISAF or the Afghan National Police.
The NATO Training Mission, headed by William Caldwall from the U.S. Army, has put in place a rigorous plan in order to increase the quantity and quality of the Afghan National Army given the pressure that is building both on the battlefields and from the member countries of the NATO mission.
Quantitatively, the number of recruits in the Afghan National Army had reached 170,000 by September of 2010, exactly a year ago. Since then, the progress in driving up the numbers has decreased due to, in part, a new focus on the quality of the training imparted to the recruits and also the numerous logistical problems.
The Chief of Army Staff has also said that the Afghan National Army and the NATO Training Mission are firm in their resolve to increase the army recruits to 195,000 in coming months. The Afghan National Army Air Corps, now renamed Afghan Air Force, has also made some significant progress in recent years in terms of the inventory of aircraft available and also the training of a new generation of air servicemen and women, who will pilot the aircraft and manage the Air Force in a professional manner.
Many problems and challenges remain in the way to further development and consolidation of Afghan Air Force. The Afghan Air Force, obviously, need to become a viable strategic force, capable of projecting air superiority over not only the Afghanistan territory but also the broader region from where threats might emanate.
In any likelihood, development of Afghan Air Force needs to be undertaken taking into consideration the abilities and power projection capabilities of regional Air Forces such as those of Pakistan and Iran.
As is the case with development of any other modern military in today's world, the threat perception environment in the region as well as military partnerships with other countries such as the U.S. need to be taken into view in building up a modern military for Afghanistan.
Currently, all the evidence and trends unfolding in Afghanistan point to a future horizon in which the current low-intensity warfare involving Taliban insurgency will continue for many more years with neither side able to annihilate the other. The need for long-term American military presence in the country arises on this account.
For many more years indefinitely into the future, Taliban will remain an insurgent force in the country, dragging the conflict to become even bloodier and costlier. The hue and cry raised over talks and negotiations are to a large extent misleading, disregarding the nature of the Taliban and the broader insurgency in Afghanistan.
Therefore, in an environment of constant insurgency and conflict, one which is going to linger indefinitely into the future, the role and importance of Afghan National Security Forces will be critical. On this basis, the policymakers and the national leadership in Afghanistan must prepare themselves as well as the Afghan National Security Forces for a prolonged period of conflict and insurgency in the country.
Political Superstructure vs. the Military Infrastructure
To a large extent, the viability and success of Afghan National Security Forces as the country's military infrastructure hinges on the viability and success of the political superstructure. If the political leadership in the country in general and the political leadership in the ANSF in particular cannot fulfill their roles and responsibilities and if they fall into the trap of factionalism, the ANSF will lose its organization and vitality. Th
erefore, the key to keeping the ANSF organized and capable is a political leadership that remains united and focused on the national interests. In the event of the political leadership descending into chaos and factionalism, the ANSF will be quick in disbanding and disintegration.
Given the particularly tough period of time ahead for Afghanistan, one that is marked by continued conflict and insurgency, it is of utmost importance to bring the ANSF up to the mark so they can be guardians of the country and the nation against internal and external threats in coming years.
For a country of 30 million people and fast growing to become 60 million in less than 30 years, a force strength of 195,000 will not be sufficient to guard against the many internal and external threats faced by Afghanistan.
The leadership in the Afghanistan government and the international coalition that is assisting Afghanistan must do whatever in their power to increase the troops strength to 400,000 and above given the present and future scenario in the country that is marked by continued volatility and a regional environment that is hostile to Afghanistan's national interests.
Afghanistan's own meager economic resources will not allow Afghanistan to finance and maintain a military that will be expensive and costly to maintain and to upkeep. Long-term assistance of the international community, particularly the U.S. and the NATO will be essential to maintain and preserve the integrity and preparedness of ANSF and to prepare it for future challenges.
In the short-term, one problem that has bogged down the progress of the ANSF is the question of moral and commitment of recruits to both the army and the police. For now, many recruits abandon service after the first few months of duty with no government plan in place to crack down on these deserters.
In the police forces, as recently reported, low pay and lack of strong disciplinary culture, allows many contracted recruits to flee from their barracks. In the army too, increasing danger as a result of operating in insurgent-infested areas forces many recruits to desert the service soon after they start formal duty.
One strong thread that runs through all these problems is the lack of strong commitment to the sacred service among the new recruits. It is essential that a culture of commitment to the sacred service should be inculcated in the service members as they go through completing their preparatory courses. Without such precautions, the development of ANSF will hit strong roadblocks.