Afghan recruits at Camp Leatherneck
Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan National Police recruits at the Joint Security Academy Southwest listen to Sayed Mukhtar Ahmad Haqqani, the Helmand director of Hajj, Aug. 3, at Camp Leatherneck.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 5, 2010) - A team with NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan is working with and funding the Afghan National Security Forces, while helping them on the road to self-sufficiency.

"We buy their fuel, we buy their boots, we buy their uniforms, communications gear, their infrastructure, all their equipment," said U.S. Army Col. John Ferrari, deputy commander for programs, NTM-A, Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable, Aug. 4.

The Afghan Security Forces Fund, which is appropriated by the United States Congress, is providing the ANSF with assets needed to grow and sustain their forces, enhancing their capabilities to defend their own country.

Ferrari said the purpose of his team is to help the Afghan government generate and sustain 305,000 soldiers and policemen by October 2011.

In order to sustain the forces, he estimates the cost could range from $6 to $8 billion with up to 25 percent growth in the number of forces. He also said in order for the fund to continue long term, without complete assistance from the United States, the international community will have to step in and assist with funding.

Ferrari also discussed Afghan First, a program that works with local manufacturers and local companies to ensure money that is spent for the Afghan Security Forces is invested in Afghan industries.

"We get to know the factory owners, the workforce [and] the quality of their products," he said. "This way, when they're selling to us, we know we're getting what we paid for, and we also know that the people who are working are getting a fair wage."

He said the team has six military officers who run the local acquisition cell, and they're out on the front lines, working with the factories, meeting the owners and the workforce. Programs like this allow local companies to get business and also stimulate the economy and community.
Ferrari said one of the difficulties his team still faces in the transition of security tasks is illiteracy.

"I think that the illiteracy rate is one of the greatest challenges we face here," he said. "It is a difficult challenge enough to train soldiers and policemen, but when they're also illiterate, you have to spend more time bringing their literacy levels up."

Ferrari added that they've put in place a program that now trains about 20,000 soldiers or policemen at any one time to read to what is deemed a literate level.

The level Ferrari refers to is the third-grade level, which takes a few weeks to achieve. To further their academic aspirations, they plan for thousands of soldiers and policemen to attend the literacy program, training them to become logisticians, communications officers, and intelligence analysts.

"And so we have a plan that will synchronize the literacy, the training of the specialty skills, that will enable the transition, whatever that transition is," he said. "And so it's our job to get those forces capable enough as soon as we can in order to meet those conditions."

Ferrari said that as they continue partnering with Afghan units over time, it will build their capability, and compared it to teaching a kid how to ride a bike.

"If they have to go down a hill or around a bend or something happens, they might fall off again. And so you pick them up and you put them back on," he said. "And every time they go through another obstacle or the enemy gets a little better, they get a little better, until over time they're going longer and longer without assistance."

Ferrari said that it will take time before all the Afghan National Security Forces throughout the country are operating independently and are in the lead.

"I don't know how long that will take. But there are signs today that the units that have been around for awhile, that have been battle-tested, where the leadership is present, ... can take charge under certain conditions for certain time lines," he said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media Directorate.)

Page last updated Thu August 5th, 2010 at 11:45