Afghanistan Developing Into Capable Partner in War on Terrorism
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2006 Afghan national security forces are building capabilities every day and will soon be able to provide security for their country and be a strong partner in the war on terrorism, two U.S. and Afghan generals involved in training the forces said in a news briefing from Afghanistan today.
The country's national security forces, including the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, now number more than 60,000 and are conducting successful joint operations, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan.
The Afghan National Army is being built from the ground up and is one of the only all-volunteer forces in the region, Durbin said. The army is now almost 30,000 strong and is growing at a rate of 1,000 people a month, he said. It is an infantry-centric force focused on counterinsurgency operations, he said.
The Afghan army has its own version of the U.S. Army's Infantry training center at the Kabul Military Training Center and its own national military academy and officer candidate school, Durbin said. The Afghans are also building their own noncommissioned officer corps, which Durbin said is the backbone of any professional army.
The Afghan National Police have been going through an extensive reform process, and the force now consists of more than 30,000 trained and equipped policemen, Durbin said. The police force has eight brigades of border police and almost 25,000 uniformed officers at the provincial and district levels, he said.
"The Afghan National Police are becoming a national presence and are developing regional command and control centers," Durbin said. "The police have an enormous task. They must maintain domestic order, protect the rights of all Afghan citizens, and secure their borders from terrorists and other criminal elements."
Durbin could not give a timeline for when Afghan forces would be able to take over security independently, but he said that the security forces have a presence in every region of the country and are working toward taking the lead in operations.
"The end state will be professional and competent security institutions that are sustainable, affordable, respected and dedicated to protecting all the Afghan people," Durbin said.
Afghan Lt. Gen. Sher Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan National Army, said Afghan security forces have made great strides in the past four years, thanks to support from the U.S. and the coalition.
"We are grateful to the U.S. and coalition and NATO nations," Karimi said. "Without U.S. support and without coalition and NATO support, it wouldn't be possible to have peace in Afghanistan."
The Taliban is a tough enemy to beat, Karimi said, because they have been rooted in Afghanistan for years. When they were in power, the Taliban had international support and ties within the country, and they now have sanctuaries inside and outside Afghanistan, he said.
"To eliminate or destroy that enemy, which was well developed from the past in various areas, is not an easy task," Karimi said. "It takes time, and we need very good intelligence."
The key to defeating the insurgency will be a small, well-trained force with strong intelligence capabilities, Karimi said. The Afghan National Army will be conducting special training and will get new equipment to better prepare them for this fight, he said.
The Afghan general said that there has been a resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan recently, but that is largely due to the warmer weather, and the Afghan National Army and coalition forces are prepared to deal with the new activity. "We were predicting that the enemy would get more alert, more active in the summer, so we accordingly planned to be more alert, more active, and have aggressive operations in many areas against the enemy," he said.
As the U.S. and coalition work with the Afghans to improve their capabilities, the focus is always on developing leaders, who will take the security forces into their new role in the war on terrorism, Durbin said.
"I believe very soon, in the future, we'll have a very capable partner who will be as committed to us as we are committed to them," he said. "This long war against terrorism will be fought together with the great ally of the people of Afghanistan."