President’s Plan Signals U.S. Commitment to Bolster Afghan Security
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2009 President Barack Obama’s decision to send 4,000 extra U.S. military trainers to Afghanistan to mentor that country’s soldiers and police signals the United States’ commitment to bolster security there, a senior U.S. military officer said today.
“The decision to send 4,000 U.S. trainers is a demonstrable and significant commitment to the development of the Afghan national security forces,” Army Maj. Gen. Richard P. Formica, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters today. Formica was speaking from his command’s base at Camp Eggers in Kabul during the satellite-carried news conference.
Formica’s command is charged with training Afghan soldiers and national police. The additional U.S. trainers, he said, will assist in efforts to boost Afghan National Army ranks from about 82,000 now to 134,000 and to increase the Afghan National Police from about 80,000 to 82,000 officers by 2011.
On March 27, Obama announced his plan to increase U.S. support to Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorist elements that operate in the region and to provide security and a better quality of life and opportunities for Afghan citizens.
Before the strategy review, 17,000 additional U.S. troops were approved for deployment to southern Afghanistan. Some of those forces, Formica said, will mentor Afghan soldiers and police, while others will battle Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists.
The troop deployments will boost the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to more than 62,000 servicemembers.
Thanks to the extra U.S. troops, “we will be able to meet the established training requirements for the current year for the first time,” Formica said.
Meanwhile, Formica said, CSTC-A has provided an analysis for potential future growth of the Afghan army and constabulary. That report, he noted, has yet to be reviewed by senior U.S. officials.
The 4,000 U.S. military trainers “will come over here and work for us,” Formica said, noting the particular unit has not yet been identified. Currently, he said, soldiers of the Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade based at Urbana, Ill., are busy training up Afghan soldiers and police.
Also, Formica said, a Georgia Army National Guard unit, the 48th Brigade Combat Team, is slated to arrive in Afghanistan in the late summer or early fall. The Guard units, he said, will train Afghan soldiers and police stationed in the northern, central and eastern portions of the country. The 4,000 additional U.S. military trainers will be distributed into embedded teams assigned to Afghan army and police units in the southern and western parts of the country.
Formica said he expects that each 16-member U.S. training team will be attached to a battalion-sized Afghan army or police unit consisting of about 500 to 600 members.
Meanwhile, Formica said, Afghan Interior Minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar supports a training initiative called the Focused District Development program as a means to eradicate corruption in the Afghan National Police, which includes the border police. Under the program, the entire police force of an Afghan provincial district travels to a regional center for thorough training, with highly trained police officers taking their place in the district until they return.
Atmar “has embraced the Focused District Development program as the flagship program for [police] reform,” Formica said. Also, Atmar has dispatched provincial audit teams, he said, to review police personnel practices, pay and financial systems, equipment accountability and other areas.
The deployment of 4,000 extra U.S. military trainers “will help us accelerate the application of FDD across Afghanistan,” Formica said.