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DoD News Briefing with Col. Klingaman from Kabul, Afghanistan

Presenters: Commander, Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-West Col. Jim Klingaman
February 08, 2008
            STAFF: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room. Today we have with us Colonel Jim Klingaman, who's the -- commanding Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-West in Afghanistan. And Colonel Klingaman and his troops are there to help rebuild and further develop Afghan security forces. He's flown in quite a ways through, I guess, some bitter weather to be with us. He's at Camp Eggers in Kabul. And we appreciate him taking time to be here.     
 
            And with that, we're going to turn it over to Colonel Klingaman. So Jim, we turn it over to you for opening comments. 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: Good morning, everybody. As he said, my name's Colonel Jim Klingaman. I command the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-West, which is headquartered at Camp Stone near Herat, Afghanistan It's my pleasure to talk to you here today. As I'm sure you're aware, ARSIC-West is in the business of training, equipping, advising and mentoring Afghan national security forces, consisting of the Afghan National Army -- in the case of Region West, the 207th Afghan Corps, and the Afghan National Police and border forces in the western region. 
 
            With that, I'm happy to take your questions. 
 
            STAFF: Okay. Lita, let's go ahead. 
 
            Q     Colonel, we've heard a lot when we were there last year about the need for more trainers. Can you just give us some update on how many more trainers you may need and how your equipment levels are, what equipment you may need additionally? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: Certainly. The Afghan national security forces are obviously where we're focusing our effort. The number of trainers we have -- as you're aware, we began under the CSTC-Alpha mission training the Afghan National Army. That was expanded about a year ago to include the Afghan National Police. What we did at that time is we converted Afghan National Army trainers to Afghan National Police, and subsequently requested additional forces to round out our numbers required to train. 
 
            To date, that request for forces has only been partially fulfilled. In my area, I need in rough numbers about 300 additional trainers for the forces we're training right now. But what I will tell you is, as the Afghan National Army continues to grow, we'll develop additional requirements for trainers specifically for the Afghan National Army. 
 
            Q     How many do you currently have? You say you need 300 more. How many do you currently have? And could you address the equipment question? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I currently have just under 500 personnel now. It's important to understand that the personnel I have working for me in ARSIC-West come from both U.S. and NATO contributing nations. In fact, the majority of soldiers I have training the Afghan National Army are Operational Mentor Liaison Teams, which are NATO entities, the majority of which, in my command, come from Italy, Spain, and I have a small contingent from Slovenia. 
 
            In terms of equipment, I will tell you that the status improves every day. We're not at 100 percent where we need to be. We are adequately equipped in the Afghan National Army on basic equipment. Now it's our goal to, obviously, get up to 100 percent and perhaps even a little bit beyond, but what we also want to do concurrently is work at improving the quality of the equipment we're giving the Afghan national security forces.   
 
            Specifically I can tell you that initial fielding of the Afghan national security forces, they've been equipped with former Warsaw Pact weapons, AK-47s, the Kalashnikov family of weapons. And over the long term we anticipate, as we are beginning now, to field the U.S. family of weapons, specifically M-4 carbines and M-16 rifles to begin, but always with an eye on increasing the quality of equipment they have in their formation. 
 
            Q     Sir, it's Kristin Roberts with Reuters, hoping to follow up on the question on the number of trainers that you're lacking. Is that the main impediment to your training efforts right now? Or what are some of the other challenges that you're facing in getting the Afghan national security forces more prepared? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: Certainly, the number of trainers we have is an issue for us. Specifically in the case of the Afghan National Police, the design -- our design for mentoring those police is to have a police mentor team in each police district in the country. We currently have four provinces, each with a number of -- I'd say on the average a dozen districts, and we are currently mentoring at the province level.   
 
            CSTC-A and ISAF has recognized that given our personnel resources, that's not sufficient, so one of the initiatives we're currently executing is called the focused district development program. And what that program is designed to do is to concentrate our resources and essentially fix some high-payoff districts one at a time.   
 
            And what we'll do is we'll pull all the existing police out of a district. They will be replaced by Afghan National Civil Order Police, which are a national entity that come from outside the region to backfill those police. The local police are then removed from their district to a training center, where they go through an intensive eight-week training period designed to give them the skills and what we hope will be the basis for ethical conduct back in their districts. They will then be reinserted into that district once they've successfully completed that training, and we'll have a police mentor team specifically assigned to them to provide them close mentoring over a period of about three months. 
 
            Q     Sir, Fred Baker, American Forces Press Service. How many Afghan forces have you trained to date? How many can those 300 trainers train at a time -- I'm sorry, those 500 trainers that you have -- how many can they train at a time? And how many can -- how many additional can be trained with the 300 troops that you requested? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: The -- we have training centers -- there's really two different types of training. There's an individual training component and then a collective training component. And I'll take a moment to describe each of those. In the case of the Afghan National Army, for example, just like in the U.S. Army, each soldier, once recruited, goes through a basic training course, and then he graduates and is assigned into a unit. We have training courses where we have drill sergeants who are Afghan National Army noncommissioned officers who train these basic trainees in a ratio of, I would say, about 30 to 1. So that's an individual training component.   
 
            Then they -- once they move and get assigned to their unit, they go into a collective training regimen where we train collective elements -- in particular, squads, platoons, companies and battalions -- or as we call them in the Afghan National Army, kandaks. The level of mentorship training -- I generally have, in the case of the U.S. soldiers, I'll have a 16-man embedded training team with each battalion, a battalion being around 500 soldiers, and that team works with that battalion commander, his staff and his subordinate companies to execute a training regimen designed to get them to a level where they can conduct independent operations with assistance from coalition or U.S. forces and ultimately to be able to conduct independent operations along with their associated brigades and corps.   
 
            Q     Sir, Kimberly Dozier with CBS News. 
 
            With the publication of the new U.S. Army counterinsurgency training manual, and a lot of the experiences both in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's understood that the U.S. Army has taken a real leap forward in COIN operations. I'm curious, since you're working with so many NATO troops, what are some of the gaps in understanding, between your forces and some of the NATO forces you're working with, on counterinsurgency operation? Where do you have to reach out to them?   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: The question was a little difficult for me to hear. Having some audio difficulties here. If I understand the question correctly, it's one about counterinsurgency doctrine, counterinsurgency practice and skills, between the U.S. Army and some of the NATO contributing nations' armies.   
 
            What I will tell you is that I have seen some very good counterinsurgency operations being conducted in Region West. I would tell you that the Region West is commanded by an Italian two-star general named Fausto Macor. He's got primarily at his disposal, in terms of maneuver forces, he's got Italians and Spanish but he's only got three companies. The NATO forces are exceptionally good at conducting what we would call stability operations which is recognized, in counterinsurgency theory and doctrine, as a critical component to counterinsurgencies.   
 
            So I think over time, what we've seen in the global war on terror is, we've seen a growth in U.S. doctrine and we've seen a growth in U.S. capabilities. And I anticipate seeing a corresponding growth, as experience levels develop within the NATO contributing nations here in Afghanistan.   
 
            Q    Just one quick follow-up, sir.   
 
            Traditional COIN operations require a much higher ratio of you- to-them than you have in Afghanistan. How do you get over that?   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: Well, the key is, and I think you heard this from General McNeill the other day, the key in counterinsurgency operations is the use of indigenous forces as the force of choice. And in the situation here in Afghanistan, given the great expanse geographically and the relatively low density of coalition forces, we're very reliant ultimately on the development of competent Afghan national security forces. I think General McNeill also talked about Afghan police forces, or police forces generically, as the force of choice in counterinsurgency, because they are local and they know the terrain and the people better than forces from the outside.   
 
            So what we're doing here, in CSTC-A and Task Force Phoenix and in ARSIC-West, in developing the Afghan army and the Afghan police, is absolutely critical as we move ahead with a counterinsurgency strategy across Afghanistan.   
 
            Q     Jim Mannion from Agence France Presse.   
 
            Given that -- how many of your trainers are involved in training the police at this point, and what is it that they're -- what is it -- what kind of training are they providing? How is it different from the training that they're providing the Afghan National Army? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: The critical training we're providing to the police is initially at this point, since the police are a relatively immature force and, quite frankly, are the targeted choice of the Taliban, is we are teaching them to survive. My experience in the west is that the Afghan National Police will have the capability to win when they stand and fight. The challenge for them and for us, quite frankly, is developing in them the confidence that they can stand and fight and that there will be reinforcements available if those are required. 
 
            In that regard, what the Afghan National Police are doing out in the west with the assistance of the Regional Police Advisory Command is they are developing some quick reaction forces within each province that can react and give those Afghan National Police and outlying districts and more remote police folk some confidence that there are reinforcements available. And many times when the Afghan National Police locally stand and fight the Taliban, they really have no problem surviving; in most cases that I've seen they come out on top. 
 
            Q     If I could just follow, how large are the embedded teams that you have with the police, and how many trainers have you assigned to training police? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I've got -- I currently have six 16-man police mentor teams in the west, and as I stated, those are essentially one per province. Now I have four provinces. I also have a team that mentors the border police, and I've got a team that mentors the police in the downtown Herat, where the -- the regional police. So in addition to that, for the focused district development program, I have created an additional team from out of my staff and really done some shuffling of personnel to create a team dedicated to the Bala Buluk District, where we're currently performing focused district development in Farah province. Now that team stays in that district. They live at the district headquarters with the police and devote 24/7 to that mission with those police. 
 
            STAFF: Mike. 
 
            Q     Sir, it's Mike Mount with CNN. I wanted to ask a question about recruiting in terms of the challenges or success you have getting folks into the police and the army, and what the willingness is that you see out there, and also what the washout rate is when you get folks in. 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: The -- as you're probably aware, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police recruit, themselves, to fill their formations.  
 
            What I have seen is -- I have not seen any problem with recruiting. I'll give you an example. In the Afghan 207th Corps, the corps out west in the Afghan National Army, we are just forming a commando kandak, which was formed out of the existing formations in the corps and is currently moving from Herat to Kabul to conduct training. The battalion that essentially provided the personnel for that formation came out of one of the battalions in the 207th Corps.   
 
            I'm just now receiving in Herat -- in fact, when I got on the airplane today, there were Afghan soldiers coming off both Afghan and ISAF airplanes bound for the 207th Corps who were new recruits, who are coming from basic training at Kabul, who will form two new battalions in the Afghan National Army 207th Corps. 
 
            Additionally, we conduct basic training out in the 207th Corps. And a normal class is 500 new recruits. This cycle, which begins in about a week, will be between 750 and 800. So recruits are really not an issue that I have seen in either the army or the police. The issue in the army is really retention of those who have fulfilled their initial obligations. And in efforts to grow a non-commissioned officer corps, obviously, we want to maintain some of those soldiers with some longevity. 
 
            There are some issues for us which we're working on in conjunction with the Ministry of Defense and the Afghan National Army to increase retention. And this gets to adequate pay and a pay system that pays soldiers what they're supposed to get and on time. It speaks to a promotion system where soldiers who do stay in and perform well have a reasonable expectation of getting promoted, getting promoted on time and can see some upward mobility in the Afghan National Army. And also, if the retention rates improve, obviously in the aggregate we'll see a more experienced and therefore more capable army. 
 
            In the police, just to cover that base, really the issue for us is not getting new police. The issue for us is getting the police we have through training. Their training -- the preponderance of their initial training is conducted at regional training centers. And at regional training centers -- they're a finite resource with a specified throughput, and getting the thousands of police required through those training centers takes time. 
 
            STAFF: Jeff. 
 
            Q     Colonel, Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes. You had talked earlier about a program to remove police from certain districts, retrain them and then put them back into the field. Can you talk about what prompted this program and when you plan to do this? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: This is a CSTC-A program.  
 
            And this program was devised about six months ago, and the reason it was was a recognition that the methodology that had been established for mentoring the Afghan National Police was not progressing quickly enough. So we made a -- at the CSTC-A level there was a decision taken to concentrate -- (audio break) -- fix one district at a time and then build on that success over time.   
 
            So we are currently in the first round of districts. There's one district in the west that's being worked under this program, and there's at least one in all the other regional commands across Afghanistan. And I will have, between now and the end of the summer, most likely five more districts go through this program. And it's really a recognition of the -- what we want to do is we want to take a group of individuals, some who have been trained and some who have not been trained, and take them as a cohesive unit out of their district.   
 
            We want to bring them up to strength in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior. If they've got leadership challenges, we want to get leaders in there who are nationally vetted and who have demonstrated a commitment to ethics consistent with what's required for the police mission in this environment. We want to retrain them all together and create a strong unit and then reinsert them into the district with some very close mentoring from a CSTC-A police mentor team over a significant period of time.   
 
            Q     A quick follow-up. The fact that you have to retrain Afghan police, does that show that initial training efforts were unsuccessful? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I don't think it does. What I will tell you is there's a disparity in the level of individual training of police in the field. Some police in the field have only been given about two weeks of minimum essential training. Some of them are brand-new recruits who have experienced no training. Others have experienced eight weeks of training at a regional training center. So there is individual-to-individual disparity across the board. And one of the goals in this program, called focused district development, is to get everyone in that police unit, from that police district, kind of on the same sheet of music in terms of both skill and expectation for performance in the field. 
 
            Q     Colonel, it's Luis Martinez at ABC News. If I understood correctly, you said earlier that you had 36 personnel working as part of your police mentoring teams in four provinces. Ideally, what kind of numbers would you rather have in that? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I didn't get that question. I'm having a little bit of audio problem. Can you say it again, please? 
 
            Q     Sure, no problem. I believe you mentioned earlier that there were 36 personnel comprising six mentor teams for police within four provinces. What would be a more ideal number for you to have spread out throughout those four provinces instead of just 36 people? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I'm not a mathematician, but I'll give you an answer without doing the calculation on the TV here. 
 
            I think the -- ideally, what we would like is one police mentor team of somewhere between 12 and 16 people per district. And again, the number of districts varies by province, but I would say roughly in the neighborhood of a dozen districts per province. 
 
            Q     And so, again, you'll currently have only 36 individuals on those teams throughout four provinces right now? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I have six teams normally of six team personnel each. So I know that actually comes out to more than 36. Additionally, as I stated before, I formed a separate team for focused district development of additional -- roughly 16 personnel.   
 
            STAFF: Okay. We can do one or two more. Jim, and then we'll finish with Kristin. 
 
            Q     This is Jim Mannion from AFP again. Can you tell me, are the police recruited locally into the national police? In other words, do they stay in the same area where they were recruited from, or are you inserting people from other parts of the country into districts as police? 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: In the focused district development program, when we withdraw the local police, we insert an element from the Afghan National Civil Order Police, which, generally speaking, are not from even the same region as the local police. Now, when the local police complete their eight weeks of training at regional training center, they will then be inserted back into their home district.   
 
            Now, there are some pros and cons to reinserting local police into their district. They know the people, they know the terrain. And of course, some of the cons are that they can -- if they were corrupt, they may tend to go back to their old ways, which is one of the reasons, in addition to the training, they get some very close mentorship as well as nationally vetted leadership as part of this program.   
 
            STAFF: Kristin? 
 
            Q     Sir, can you focus in on the area of Herat for a moment and tell us how many police and how many Afghan National Army personnel you have right in that area, and then assess for us their capabilities, their skills and operations?  
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I think the question was how many Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army we have in Herat. The Afghan National Army 207th Corps is headquartered in Herat. It's got a corps headquarters there, plus one brigade. However, it's got two battalions that are currently deployed in the southern portion of the west, being in Farah province. 
 
            The Afghan National Police have the regional headquarters in Herat, and I don't have the specific number of police officers at the tip of my tongue.   
 
            Q     The capabilities of those forces in that city, in that area?   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I'm sorry, I didn't understand the question. Please say again.   
 
            STAFF: Yes, she wanted an assessment of their capabilities, for both the ANA and ANP.   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: The -- I would tell you and I think it's been pretty well discussed that the Afghan National Army has done very well in its development over time, over about the last five years. We've been working pretty closely with them for that time.   
 
            The 207th Corps, in my area, is one of the less mature of the corps in Afghanistan. I will tell you countrywide there are some formations, specifically in the east, that are very close to achieving a capability where they can conduct independent operations.   
 
            In the west, with the 207th Corps, we're not quite to that same level. I'd tell you that we've got battalions that are capable of conducting independent operations with coalition support, in terms of medevac, logistics or close air support.   
 
            I anticipate over time, and really I would say the next year, 207th Corps 1st Brigade, which is its only brigade currently, approaching that same level at the brigade level, and over the next year forming a second brigade, which is slightly less capable. And I will tell you that the lead battalion of that new brigade is forming, as we speak, in Herat.   
 
            STAFF: And, sir, how would you assess the ANP specifically in the Herat area?   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I got, how would I assess the ANP? And I didn't get it after that. Please say it again.   
 
            STAFF: We were asking, specifically in the Herat area, how you would evaluate the ANP's capability.   
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: I think the ANP's capability is fairly good. They work closely with several other entities, including the ANA. And I will tell you a great success story in Herat and I'm not going to remember the date specifically. But this past fall, Herat, for the country of Afghanistan, hosted the Economic Cooperation Organization meeting of ministers in Herat, which is a regional organization designed to encourage economic cooperation. That was a huge deal in the city of Herat and, in fact, President Karzai visited and gave an address at that conference which lasted, as I recall, three or four days.   
 
            The security arrangements for that fell specifically to the Ministry of the Interior, and locally represented by the Afghan National Police.   
 
            We worked closely with the police, with the army, the national director to security, Regional Command West and all the other entities involved in security in that region in order to secure that very important and very prestigious event. And it went down without a hitch and was a huge success for the Afghan national security forces in that region of the country. 
 
            STAFF: Well, Colonel Klingaman, we do appreciate your time with us today, and we have run a little bit past, and we appreciate your patience with this press conference. At this time we'd like to give you an opportunity to provide any final comments or thoughts that you may have. 
 
            COL. KLINGAMAN: Despite the difficulties, it's been my pleasure to speak to all of you this morning. I want to publicly acknowledge the service of my soldiers, sailors and airmen and, we hope soon, Marines in their efforts to help the Afghan people in the Afghan national security forces in western Afghanistan. It's an extremely important mission and performed during an extremely important time, and I publicly acknowledge their sacrifice and outstanding service. 
 
            Thank you very much. 
 
           
            STAFF: Thank you all for coming.
 
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