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Afghan National Army (ANA)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) summarized the progress in creating the Afghan Army as follows in a report in June 2008. The United States had invested over $10 billion to develop the ANA since 2002. However, only 2 of 105 army units were assessed as being fully capable of conducting their primary mission and efforts to develop the army continued to face challenges. While the ANA had grown to approximately 58,000 of an authorized force structure of 80,000, it had experienced difficulties finding qualified candidates for leadership positions and retaining personnel. Also, while trainers or mentors were present in every ANA combat unit, shortfalls existed in the number deployed to the field. Finally, ANA combat units reported significant shortages in about 40 percent of equipment items the Department of Defense defined as critical, including vehicles, weapons, and radios.

By early 2012 the ANA continued to make steady progress towards its goal of assuming full responsibility for security across all of Afghanistan from ISAF by the end of 2014. The ANA was on-pace to meet its current growth targets and had steadily increased its capability ratings. The number of partnered operations continued to increase along with the percentage of these operations that were led by Afghan forces. While progress was not uniform across all sections of the ANA, some units, such as the Afghan National Army Special Forces, have made impressive strides, and are now very capable. Progress has been slower in other areas, such as in developing the ANA logistics capabilities, or the development of the Afghan Air Force.

As of the end of March 2012, the overall ANA force level reached 194,466 personnel. The ANA had effectively met its surge level end strength with an increase of 23,685 from the force level at the end of the previous reporting period in September 2011. Recruiting remained steady. The ANA met or exceeded its monthly recruiting goal in three of the six months during the reporting period ending March 2012. NTM-A and the MoD also maintained efforts to recruit southern Pashtuns as well as improve the overall ethnic balance of the ANA. Using the MoD and NTM-A-agreed definition for Southern Pashtuns, this ethnic segment made up 6.6 percent of enlisted recruits during the reporting period. Despite persistent efforts, the impact of the initiatives on the security situation in the south and elsewhere remained marginal.

Monthly attrition rates also did not meet the targeted level of 1.4 percent for the first five months of the reporting period: 2.4 percent in October, 2.6 percent in November, 2.3 percent in December, 1.9 percent in January, 1.8 percent in February, and 1.2 percent in March, for a six-month average of 2.0 percent. However, there was consistent improvement due to improvements in leadership, providing more leave to soldiers, enhanced living conditions, and pay system improvements.

A total of 8,083 NCOs were generated between October 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, including 5,908 from the Team Leader Courses and 2,175 from initial entry 1 Uniform courses14 (1UC). Nevertheless, the ANA is challenged by a significant current shortfall of nearly 10,600 NCOs as well as needed growth of 6,800 additional NCOs in 2012.

The ANA is authorized up to 195,000 personnel as part of its tashkil. At the beginning of December 2014, ANA manning was approximately 164,000 personnel, including more than 6,200 Afghan Air Force personnel. As of April 20, 2015, the ANA has increased to almost 170,000 personnel primarily as a result in increased recruiting rates. The ANA also had relatively low rates of attrition during March and April 2015. The attrition rate in the ANA continues to pose challenges for ANDSF development. The ANA attrition rate dropped to an average of approximately 2.3 percent for the last 12 months (compared to historical norms of approximately 2.6 percent) with a low of 1.8 percent in March 2015 and a peak of 3.0 percent in October 2014. Despite this improved trend, ANA casualties increased during early 2015 compared to last year based on operational reporting.

The ANA is authorized up to 195,000 personnel as part of its tashkil. As of October 20, 2015, ANA manning was approximately 170,000 personnel, including more than 6,600 AAF personnel. This includes approximately 780 women who comprise less than one percent of total ANA and AAF end strength. During the reporting period, monthly attrition rates varied between 2.2 and 2.9 percent but overall were higher than the previous reporting period. The number of new recruits per month has steadily increased and retention has improved slightly, both of which contributed to a higher end strength.

The ANA experienced significant leadership changes during early 2015. President Ghani embraced his position as Commander-in-Chief. In February 2015, he directed the mandatory retirement of 47 ineffective, excess, and elderly general officers. This action helped remove generals who had long exceeded the mandatory retirement age to make room for the next generation. In addition, he suspended numerous general officers involved in the fuel scandal. Although generally positive in intent, these actions also caused some disruption in areas where replacements were not readily named.

In October 2015, President Ghani nominated 61 new general officers and senior ranking officials for MoD positions. These and other leadership changes throughout 2015 have been mostly positive, though the lack of depth in the ANA leadership cadre has at times led to ineffective officers being transitioned from one position to another. This lack of institutional capacity is also evident in the early advancement of officers; one of the reasons cited for the ANA 215th Corps weak performance relative to other corps during late 2015 was the inexperience of the corps commander.

With the disestablishment of the ANA Ground Forces Command in early 2015, the General Staff now has direct contact with and command and control over ANA corps commanders. This creates a more efficient command structure, and early indications suggest that ANA corps commanders are more receptive to guidance from the General Staff than from the previous Ground Forces Command. However, this structure also provides senior leaders the opportunity to become more directly involved in tactical-level decisions rather than maintaining a strategic-level outlook. Public perceptions of the ANA varied across the corps with the highest level of public confidence in the 111th Capital Division and the lowest in the ANA 215th Corps.




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