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Four capabilities in Afghan forces need to be developed, US general says

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan has said that Afghan security forces need to develop four capabilities to be successful.

Speaking with reporters in the Pentagon via videoconference from Kabul, the Resolute Support mission spokesman Brig. General Wilson Shoffner said that Afghan forces need to develop a readiness cycle, reduce the number of checkpoints, make leadership changes, and fill their ranks.

The force readiness cycle is the most important, he said. Afghan forces have to develop a system where units are manned and trained, enter combat and then reconstitute.

“Some of their forces are worn down,” the general said. “Some of them have been involved in continuous security operations since the beginning of 2015.”

Operations break down not only soldiers, but equipment, he said. Units need time to be trained and equipped for deployment. Then there needs to be a set time for that deployment. Units then need time to rest and recuperate and, finally, to reconstitute with all ranks filled and all equipment repaired and maintained.

“Once they are done with that, they are ready for that training cycle to begin again,” Shoffner said. “That cyclic system … is going to be key for them being able to sustain security operations here in Afghanistan.”

The general said that Afghan forces also need to reduce the number of checkpoints they man. “The Afghan security forces — particularly in the army — are short about 25,000 [personnel],” he said. “They’ve got too many of their soldiers on checkpoints, and they’ve got to reduce some of those checkpoints.”

The forces are spread so thin that in some cases it is easy for Taliban forces to take the checkpoints, Shoffner said. Instead of operating checkpoints, he said, Afghan forces should consolidate where they can into strong points “that they can defend and from which they can maneuver and deal with security issues as they arise.”

Shoffner said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is operating in four or five remote districts of Nangarhar province. “We’re seeing [ISIL] attempting to establish a base of operations there,” he said. “Afghan security forces have had quite a bit of success against them.”

U.S. forces have also stepped up attacks on ISIL after being given additional authorities to go after the group, the general said.

ISIL has not had a lot of luck recruiting Afghans, Shoffner said, adding that he estimates there may be between 1,000 to 3,000 Afghan adherents to the group.

Afghan security forces need to make some difficult leadership changes, he said. “The Afghan government has already started this by changing out 92 general officers across the services.”

“Now, that is a good step, but I point out, just changing a leader is only part of it,” Shoffner said. “You’ve got to have the right leader to go in there, for that leader to be effective and for that unit to become effective.”

The Afghan defense ministry has started a six-month recruiting campaign to bolster the ranks. “To put this in context, they have got a capacity right now of training about 6,000 soldiers a month for the Army, but they’re not meeting that,” Shoffner said. “They are currently training about 3,000 to 4,000 [a month].”

The Afghan defense ministry has to ramp up recruiting efforts and get more soldiers in the pipeline so they can sustain ongoing security operations, he said.

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