Afghan Army Has Made Great Progress, Says U.S. Officer
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2005 Progress made by the Afghan National Army over the past year has "enabled Afghan institutions to build enduring local, regional and national security, extended the reach of the national government and assisted in Afghanistan's transition to a democratic nation," a senior military official said today at a Kabul news conference.
The Afghan army "is well trained, brave and relentless in its execution of missions," Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig Weston, chief of the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan, pointed out.
Afghanistan's army, Weston said, helped to set the stage for successful nationwide voting conducted in October that elected Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president.
Today, the Afghan National Army has 21,000 soldiers, the general noted, which includes about 17,800 trained troops and more than 3,400 still in training. About 4,000 Afghan soldiers are deployed throughout the country performing security tasks, he said, "from combat operations alongside coalition forces, to security operations" at the direction of Afghanistan's minister of defense.
Over the past year, the ANA has helped to quell disagreements among Afghan warlords and end fighting among rival militias, Weston said.
The ANA, the general said, "is a true national army, representative of all of Afghanistan's major ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Turkmen" and others. This inclusiveness, he noted, "has been key" to the ANA's success.
The Afghan Army also continues to attract recruits, Weston said, noting that 11 new recruiting centers are slated to open in the next few months.
And, last fall's rollout of ANA regional command centers at Kandahar, Heart, Mazar-e-Sharif and Gardez, he said, "extended the reach of the national government throughout all four regions of the country."
By this summer, Weston said, the Afghan minister of defense "will have grown the troop presence at each regional command to a full 3,000-man brigade, plus the headquarters soldiers."
The disarmament of Afghan militia forces "has been another, critical goal in establishing a safe and secure Afghanistan," the general said. The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program, with Japan as the international community's lead nation, has "achieved more successes these past few months," he said.
The DDR program has led to the disarmament of 31,800 former militia members, Weston said, adding that more than 7,800 heavy weapons are now under government control.
The Office of Military Cooperation - Afghanistan is proud of its partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Defense and other nations "in reconstructing the Afghan security and defense sectors" as well as "its contributions to the global war on terrorism," the general told reporters. "We have found our work with the Afghan people to be personally rewarding," he said. "In many ways we have grown ourselves as we have helped the resilient people of Afghanistan rebuild their country."