WASHINGTON (July 8, 2010) -- The NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan is working to develop strong, experienced leaders from within the ranks of the Afghan National police force and Army.

Lt. Col. James Baker, executive officer for the deputy to the commander of NTM-A, said one of the lessons learned in recent operations in Marja was that Afghan soldiers and police often had gaps in training. The educational system currently being developed by NTM-A, in conjunction with the Afghans, will help fix that problem, Baker told bloggers on a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable, July 7.

"NTM-A is currently working in collaboration with Afghan leadership and our coalition partners to establish the National Security Education System, which looks to integrate educational opportunities for security forces and ministries directly related to the Afghan national security program," Baker said.

Essentially, the program will be a "cradle-to-grave strategy," beginning with a policeman or soldier's basic and initial specialized skill training and carrying them, in theory, into top-level positions through the cycle of their career.

"As we grow that experience over the spectrum of a career ... we actually promote those people forward based on their merits," Baker said. "[We can] professionalize the force by having a standard that each soldier or policeman has to meet to be accepted for the next level of responsibility."

Having a codified training and advancement system, Baker said, will show young recruits that they can make a lifelong commitment to their country, and that the government will reward them for their effort, not for their political connections.

"We can groom young Afghan commanders and noncommissioned officers, first initially in the tactical art, and grow that leadership into what's needed for operational and strategic leaders," Baker said.

It also shows them that Army and police leaders have learned and earned their position the same way new recruits will have to, which will help provide trust in their leadership.

"Corruption has been a challenge here, so we'd like to institutionalize a system where we can get rid of things like nepotism, where you get a job because you're a friend of a friend of a friend," Baker said. "We'd like to eliminate that and be able to have a standard, where everybody can look across the board and see that the right people are being selected for the right jobs based on the right educational metrics."

Currently, only policemen, soldiers and some members of the Afghan Air Force are participating in the system via military training, both at the NCO and officer levels. Upon completion, the system will provide education, both in the academic sense and in career development for Afghan police, soldiers and civil servants.

The idea of giving a certain number of seats in each course of study to soldiers, police and civilians is to create a "cross-fertilization of expertise," Baker said. Each can share unique perspectives and experiences with the others, and all will bring the same basic lessons back to their job, whether it's with the Ministry of Interior, Defense, the National Defense Service, or the Afghan National Security Force.

"There was a lack of coordination and understanding between police and Army forces in Afghanistan," Baker said. "Along with the Afghans, we wanted to take that apart and build that leadership from the ground up as these gentlemen and ladies come through on the lieutenant, captain, major and colonel levels, so when they get to be strategic leaders, they'll have had shared experiences and be able to cooperate on a national stage."

(Ian Graham writes for Defense Media Activity, Emerging Media)