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Afghan National Army - Early Development

The ultimate objective of the post-Taliban military reform effort was the formation of an Afghan Naitional Army (ANA) that was effective and politically reliable. This process initially faced a number of problems, notably low recruitment and a high desertion rate. The most evident consequence of these problems was the army's slow numerical growth, but on the horizon was also issues of military effectiveness and political reliability.

The task of building an effective volunteer army was expected to be exceedingly difficult. The primary reason for this was socio-cultural, which had been an issue in forming a national military under previous governments. Afghan men were keen on remaining close to their families. Keeping troops in the ranks had perennially posed a major problem to efforts to form centralized military structures in Afghanistan. Pay raises could partially address this issue, but the financial sustainability of such a measure was doubtful at best.

Starting on 1 May 2002, the ANA's first regular army battalion (known as a "kandak") underwent 10 weeks of basic infantry and combat skills training at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul. ANA received training, advising and assistance from US Army Special Forces members. US Army Special Forces members, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were tasked with providing the training for several kandaks before commissioned and noncommissioned Afghan officers could assume responsibility for training future Afghan soldiers. The Green Berets were faced with the daunting challenge of developing the nucleus of a national army with recruits representing all provinces within Afghanistan. The unit was ready to form one new kandak every 2 weeks if the Afghanistan Interim Authority's recruiting efforts could supply such a demand. With resources initially available, training of up to 4 kandak could take place simultaneously.

The Afghanistan National Army's first regular army battalion developed a unit insignia patch that underscores the latest chapter of Afghanistan's military history. The 500 members of 1st Battalion, National Army, were undergoing 10 weeks of basic infantry and combat skills training at the military academy here. They're scheduled to graduate in mid-July. The centerpiece on the 1st Battalion patch is an outline of Afghanistan bracketed by two sheaves of wheat and overlaid with a fountain pen and two crossed rifles. The fountain pen signifies the re-writing of Afghan's history and also the intent of the soldiers to learn and become better educated. In Arabic, the words "God is Great" are embroidered at the top and "First Battalion, National Army" are embroidered in a banner across the center. Near the bottom of the patch are small black, red and green bars replicating the colors of the Afghan national flag. Encouraged by their U.S. trainers, Afghan soldiers designed the patch themselves. Recruit Faqir Mohommad, 26, of Qanduz, Afghanistan, rendered the first artist's drawing of the patch. He displayed it on a bulletin board and solicited input from fellow soldiers. Other Afghan battalions will be formed and will take part in the training. They are expected to use the same patch, but with their own unit designations embroidered on it.

Training for the ANA was conducted at the Afghan Military Academy. Many of the buildings at the facility had either been destroyed or fallen into disrepair over the years. Parts of the Academy were being refurbished by the US for use as a military academy once again. Classes tought by US Army Special Forces included basic rifle marksmanship, weapons maintenance class, and drill and ceremony training. As part of the training, at a firing range at the Academy, recruits took part in a drill that was part of the first squad level competition conducted by US Army Special Forces members, which involved several squads of Afghan recruits competing against one another in marksmanship and a timed obstacle course run.

The training was in line with long term US administration and UN Organizers' plans for providing for Afghanistan's internal and external security through a national army and police force. The training program and the formation of a national army in Afghanistan was considered one of the cornerstone of success for the Afghan government. The training program called for US forces to train up to 18 kandaks of infantry soldiers to form the core of the ANA. Some Afghan military leaders were reported to have voiced that they would like to form an army of 200,000 men, provided enough financing for the effort could be found.

According to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Afghan recruits would be provided military training at the individual, squad, platoon, company and battalion levels. A cadre of commissioned and noncommissioned Afghan officers would also be formed to assume the responsibility of training future Afghan soldiers with Afghans possibly taking charge of the training program by the end of the 2002. Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying that US service members involved in training Afghans could be "in the low hundreds, at most." Training started with individual infantry skills and progressed to small-unit operations, fire teams, squads, platoons and so forth.

The ANA's first battalion-sized kandak, consisting of approximately 350 officer and enlisted trainees, graduated on 23 July 2002. A second such unit, of nearly 320 trainees, began week one of its training on 8 June 2002, under the supervision of French military instructors. US trainers were to begin training a third unit of approximately 330 soldiers on 27 July 2002.

More than 500 individuals showed up during the initial recruiting drive for the 1st Kandak, but nearly half of them dropped out due to misunderstandings, among which included the pay rate, and the belief that trainees would be taken to the US for training, be taught to speak English, and to read and write. Soldiers in the new ANA initially received $30/month during training and $50 after graduation, although pay for trained soldiers rose to $70. Some of the recruits were under 18 years of age and most were illiterate. Recruits who only spoke Pashto had difficulties because instructions were given through interpreters who spoke Dari.

New Uniforms and equipment for the recruits of the ANA were provided by the United States. A number of countries subsequently provided over equipment, including one thousand AK-47 rifles from Romania, which were to remain at the training center. Heavy weapons included 82mm mortars, 75mm recoilless rifles and PKM machine guns. Equipment shortages were among the initial challenges to training the recruit. Some weapons were recovered from caches throughout the country, but not all were suitable for training.

According to US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, finding the money to train, equip and pay an Afghan army was an issue with the size of a national army being proportionate to available funds. The United States and coalition countries were, according to him, trying to raise money for both the interim and follow-on international security assistance forces and for the training of the Afghan army.

The 1st Kandak was garrisoned in Kabul so as to be centrally located in the event it was needed to provide security. It was specifically assigned to the presidential palace amid security concerns for the president following the 6 July 2002 assassination of Vice President Abdul Qadir. The unit fell under the command and control of the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

The second ANA kandak graduated on 15 August 2002. The third ANA kandak, with more than 360 trainees, graduated on 3 October 2002. The 3rd Kandak was dispatched to a Ministry of Defense facility outside the city of Kabul. The 3rd Kandak was the first to complete a 10-week program of instruction that culminated in a company-size raid exercise, and which included live-fire. The exercise included the use of 82mm mortars, PKM Machine Guns and SPG-9 Recoilless Rifles. The fourth kandak, under French instruction from the 27th Brigade d'Infanterie de Montagne, began training in early September 2002. The kandak, with more than 400 Afghan soldiers, graduated on 13 November 2002. Training of the fifth kandak, under US instruction, was scheduled to begin on 21 October 2002, with more than 530 soldiers. The sixth kandak's training, under French instruction, was scheduled to begin in late November/early December 2002 with almost 270 soldiers. The sixth kandak completed basic training on 9 February 2003.

On 23 July 2003, ANA soldiers accompanied by US-led coalition troops were deployed in Operation Warrior Sweep, marking the first major combat operation for the Afghan troops. Six ANA companies, numbering approximately 1,000 soldiers, participated in combat operations in Paktiya Province's Zormat District, where they were tasked with killing, capturing, and denying sanctuary to anti-coalition fighters and with disrupting anti-coalition activity in the Zormat Valley region.

On 14 August 2003, at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), 104 ANA noncommissioned officers (NCOs) graduated from the fourth ANA NCO Course. This course and previous ones before it were administered by the British Army. Future classes were to be conducted primarily by ANA instructors, with gradually diminishing British assistance as more Afghan instructors became qualified. The British Army, in turn, was to shift its focus on administering a more senior-level NCO Course.

On 24 August 2003, the graduation ceremony of the first Corps Staff Officer Course held at the KMTC took place, with over 30 ANA officers graduating. The 4-week course prepared Brigade and Corps staff officers in the grades of lieutenant to major general to perform command and staff functions at their respective levels. The course curriculum covered subjects including the role of a staff officer, preparing and conducting briefings, providing staff estimates, and preparation and issue of operational orders. On 30 August 2003, the formal activation of Central Corps took place at Pol-e-charki.

On 29 September 2003, the 11th Kandak was ready, boosting the force to about 6,000. The 11th Kandak was a combat support battalion for the Army's 3rd Brigade, and was capable of providing engineering, medical and scout skills.

By February 2004, $500 million USD had been spent on ANA and police force training. The ANA troop count had reached 7,000 total personnel. On 30 April 2004, the ANA totalled some 8,300 soldiers, with another 2,500 in training.

On 27 May 2004, the US Department of Defense announced an increase in the number of cohort kandaks being trained at the KMTC, with an expected impact on the expansion of the fledgling army. Each kandak graduated with approximately 750 soldiers. Four cohort kandak (a total of 3,000 soldiers) were simultaneously training at the time to learn markmanship, first aid, drill and ceremony, and communications. At the time, more than a third of all Afghan National Army soldiers were deployed forward to Herat, Kandahar, Gardez and Mazar-i-Sharif for security purposes. Training officers estimated that 13,000 more soldiers would be trained over the coming 6 months.

According to an Associated Press account of 29 May 2004, with elections to be held in September 2004, plans were reported underway to have the 15 kandaks of the ANA deploy around the country to bolster security. It was also reported that training for new units had been expanded to 4 kandaks at a time. Another press account, carried by the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and featuring General Zaher Azimi, spokesman of the Afghan National Defence Ministry, reported the existence of only 11 kandaks.

A British House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee report found that about 10,000 members of the ANA had been trained as of 15 June 2004. According to a report published by the International Crisis Group in March 2004, the ANA's establishment was below coalition targets, was not ethnically representative of the population, and suffered from a high rate of desertion. A mid-March 2004 estimate suggested that 3,000 soldiers had deserted. In the summer of 2003 the desertion rate was 10 percent.

Ministry of Defense control of the recruitment process initially led to a disproportionate representation of Tajiks in the ANA, prompting the establishment of recruitment centers in Jalalabad, Kabul, Gardez and Bamiyan in an effort to encourage a more diversified army. A number of measures had been taken to address the desertion problem but the strength of approximately 7,500 troops fell short of the 40,000 projected by Coalition officers. Afghan president Hamid Karzai had set a goal of an army of 70,000 men by 2009 and hoped to acheive a "central core" of 9,000 to 12,000 personnel by the summer of 2005.

On 20 July 2004, 60 ANA officers from the ranks of captain to colonel graduated from the second Command and General Staff College in Macroriyan, Kabul, according to Combined Forces Command officials. The graduates attended the 3-month long course of advanced military officer training, conducted by an instructional cadre from the French Army, to gain critical Field Officer skills. Topics of instruction ranged from military tactics to the military decision making process to current theories of leadership principals.

By 13 August 2004, ANA units were deployed to various parts of the country, accompanied by American units on security missions. When fighting broke out in the Herat province on 14 August 2004 between Ismail Khan's forces and other militia factions, President Karzai ordered 3 kandaks of the ANA and units of the national police to the area, near Herat, to intervene between the warring parties and start policing the region. About 1,500 ANA soldiers were deployed. A ceasefire was negotiated on 17 August 2004.




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