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Afghan - Military Personnel

In 2018, reporting from the lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations indicated that the ANDSF was manned at roughly 38,272 or 11% below their authorized strength of 352,000. Critical specialties such as special operations, aviation maintenance, and pilots are also in increasingly short supply. Additionally, each successive fighting season for the past few years has seen an increase in casualties, with limited data to suggest that trend would subside in the near term.

As of October 30, 2018, the ANDSFs assigned (actual) force strength was 308,693 personnel (not including civilians), including 190,753 in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and AAF, and 117,940 in the Afghan National Police (ANP). The latest strength gure shoeds that the ANDSFs strength had decreased by 9,016 personnel since the January 2017 High-Risk List (data as of August 2016). The ANDSF was at 87.7% of its authorized (goal) strength in October 2018, down from 90.3% since the 2017 High-Risk List (data as of August 2016). The latest strength gures show that the ANA is 36,621 personnel below its authorized strength of 227,374, and the ANP is 6,686 personnel below its authorized strength of 124,626. Decreased personnel strength is a result of attrition outpacing recruitment.

Casualties (those injured or killed in action) contribute to ANDSF attrition rates. On January 24, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that about 45,000 Afghan security personnel have been killed since he became president in September 2014. That number indicates that in those roughly 53 months, around 849 Afghan security personnel have been killed per month on average. Resolute Support [RS] told SIGAR in October 2018 that, From the period of May 1 to the most current data as of October 1, 2018, the average number of casualties the ANDSF has suffered is the greatest it has ever been in like periods.

As of October 2016, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police had a combined official strength of about 320,000 troops. But Afghan authorities said the real number is much lower. The shortage of troops was felt during the year in places like Helmand Province, where the Taliban won a series of military victories against Afghan government forces. The US Defense Department has tried to prevent fraud by tens of thousands of nonexistent "ghost soldiers" by automating some systems and collecting biometric data in order to track the location of police and soldiers. But such measures can only be effective if accurate data on the size of Afghan forces is collected and maintained.

The ANA had an authorized end-strength of 227,374 personnel. Shortfalls in conventional ANA recruiting and retention resulted in undermanned basic training courses and delays in course start dates. ANA overall recruiting and retention goals were set at levels below what was needed to keep pace with attrition and grow the force in accordance with ANDSF Roadmap goals. Therefore, despite meeting recruiting and retention goals, the ANA will have to recruit and retain soldiers at higher than current rates throughout the year in order to keep pace with attrition and Roadmap milestones.

A generational change in leadership began within the MoD in 2018 when the first group of retirements (including 656 colonels and generals) and subsequent merit-based promotions occurred as part of Inherent Law implementation. Similar changes in MoI leadership will begin later in 2018 as Inherent Law implementation begins within the ministry. Based on the Inherent Law, more than 5,000 colonels and generals would retire from the MoD and MoI gradually over the two years 2019-2020. This generational change of leadership opened senior leadership positions for the next generation of ANDSF leaders selected based on merit rather than patronage. The anticipated rapid turnover of personnel underscored the importance of ministerial commitment to facilitate an orderly transition and oversee the education and training of new leadership.

The increase in ANA offensive military pressure on the enemy throughout winter 2018 was a result of a culture shift within the force driven by the new leadership, including replacing five of six Corps commanders, the Chief of General Staff (CoGS), and the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior. Parliament subsequently confirmed the appointments of Minister of Defense Bahrami and Minister of Interior Barmak, empowering both leaders to pursue muchneeded reform. For example, soon after his confirmation, Minister Barmak replaced seven Provincial Chiefs of Police (in Farah, Sar-e Pul, Herat, Takhar, Samangan, Khost, and Kabul) and all 18 Kabul District Chiefs of Police. Selection for replacements included a merit-based screening and board process culminating with Presidential approval.

Monthly attrition rates for both the ANA and ANP increased slightly during late 2015, but remained close to the two-year historical average of 2 percent. Attrition rates account for all losses to the force. This includes both planned factors such as separation from military service and retirements and unplanned factors such as ANDSF personnel who are dropped from the rolls, killed-in-action, non-hostile fatalities, and exempted service members. Individuals are dropped from the rolls when they leave their units without authorization for more than 30 days. Some personnel who leave without authorization, including those dropped from the rolls, eventually return to their units. The dropped from rolls category represents the most significant contributor to high attrition rates.

Several soldier quality of life issues contribute to the high number of ANDSF personnel who are dropped from the rolls and to the high overall attrition rate. Within both the ANA and ANP, insufficient and untimely pay, difficulties accessing pay, the absence or misunderstanding of leave policies, constant combat deployments with little or no leave or training rotations, the lack of casualty and martyr care, and inadequate living and working conditions all pose significant challenges to retaining a professional force. While policies exist to prevent personnel from being absent without leave (AWOL), they are often unenforced and commanders frequently welcome personnel back without exercising any formal discipline.

The MoD and ANA readiness reporting system is inadequate; General Staff leadership do not have a good picture of actual manpower and equipment readiness rates at the lower levels of the ANA. Minister Stanekzai initiated a minister-level commission to address this issue, however, the group is not meeting regularly and has not yet produced an improved readiness reporting mechanism. One of the by-products of the disestablishment of the Ground Forces Command early in 2015 was the deterioration in the quality and frequency of a quarterly sustainment and readiness report from the ANA corps to the General Staff.

By 2008 the ANA officer corps was working to improve its professionalism. Illiteracy rates remain high in Afghanistan, but members of the officer corps are required to have basic reading and writing abilities. Plans are being made to improve the educational level of the officer corps. Overall, officers are proficient at the tactical level though not yet fully mature in operational and strategic concepts. Nevertheless, the majority of the officers, and most importantly the very senior officers, believe in the concept of a national military and are starting to use the military decision-making process and provide information and decision briefs to their superiors. The chain of command works well when exercised, and there was strict adherence to direction from higher ranks.

Entry-level officer training occurs in three forms. Officers with previous experience in the former Afghan Army attend an eight-week Officer Training Course which provides professional ethics training. New officers attend the six-month Officer Candidate School or the four-year National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

Training provided by or coordinated with CSTC-A was conducted with the intent of building a self-sufficient, strong, and fully capable ANA. The keystone of the ANA end-to-end career and training program was the formation and incorporation of branch service schools and combined career progression courses. Advanced training conducted on both branch specific and general military and leadership subjects ensures that the professional non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers continue their professional development.

A planned career path that included professional, advanced schooling also allows for reinforcement of the values and goals of the GIRoA and developed an appreciation for and support of the national agenda. Although initially based on the U.S. Army branch and higher military education system, the ANA career schools must reflect Afghan organization and operation to ensure internalization and independence. In the interim, this training was provided through MTTs and on-the-job training provided by either ETTs or OMLTs.

The year 2007 surpassed the previous four years in ANA recruitment of soldiers. The ANA has recruited 32,135 soldiers in the year leading up to March 20, 2008. Annual recruitment numbers for the past four years, beginning with the most recent, are: 21,287; 11,845; 15,790; and 9,671. The year-to-date re-enlistment average in the fielded ANA was 50 percent for soldiers and 56 percent for NCOs. Factors that preclude higher re-enlistment rates include the desire for larger salaries, better leadership, and to be stationed closer to family.

In the February 2008, the ANA had an 8.4 percent absentee rate. This rate was down from the 12 percent rate experience at the height of summer 2007. The three Corps most consistently in contact with insurgents and anti-government elements had the highest AWOL rates, but on average they experienced an average rate of less than 10 percent in 2007 and the beginning of 2008. This decrease in AWOL rates has contributed directly to an increase of 20,000 in ANA end strength since January 2007. This increase in end strength coupled with a deliberate effort to fully man combat units fully and overfill entry level soldier authorizations should further mitigate this issue. During the past year, AWOL rates in ANA combat forces have decreased three percent. With increasing emphasis on pay and incentives, better facilities and training, better leadership in the ANA, and more robustly manned units, it was anticipated that AWOL rates will continue to decrease through 2008.

By 2014 MoD hiring practices sometimes rely on patronage networks rather than qualifications when filling positions of authority. The MoD has a dearth of competent officers in positions of authority; however, a number of senior officers constrain advisors ability to develop the capacity of the individual offices and to design and implement needed reforms. The budgetary system is overly bureaucratic, which inhibits the MoDs ability to resource the force properly, and overly restrictive laws increase the workload associated with contracting and procurement. Continued assignment of junior officers with the requisite training and skills, coupled with the recruitment of appropriately trained and experienced civilians, will help mitigate these shortfalls in the near term. Long-term progress hinges on the continued growth and development of midlevel employees in these offices.

Of 69 ANSF training and education institutions, 50 had completed transition and were capable and proven in autonomous operations without routine coalition oversight. Of the remaining 25 training and education institutions, 6 would transition by the end of 2014 and the remaining 13 would complete transition by the end of 2016. These institutions are managing student throughput and providing quality instruction, but have limited ability to identify lessons and capture experience to inform doctrine, training, or instructor development.

Conflicting direction among ANA training and education stakeholders (General Staff G7, Afghan National Technical, Marshel Fahim National Defense University) continues to slow progress. ANA training systems are capable of force generation at scale, but need to mature. The ANP Training General Command is capable of delivering training through its training centers with minimum coalition oversight. In 2014, the ANP Training General Command published its first annual training plan, although the training centers have not yet executed the plan. The ANP Training General Command is performing well, but needs to analyze command and control, and to institutionalize the progress it had made thus far.

By the end of 2014, a minimum of 300,000 ANSF should have received literacy training of at least level 1 (basic literacy) and a minimum of 100,000 should have achieved level 3 (functional literacy).

Retention and reducing attrition are key factors to professionalize the force. There was an increasing trend in the number of experienced soldiers opting out of re-enlistment, accounting for about a third of all attrition. Leadership must refocus their efforts on increasing re-enlisting and reducing attrition. Enforcing a rotation policy could mitigate re-enlistment issues by allowing recontracted soldiers to transfer away from the front line or nearer to their home.

By 2014 the ANSF now had the lead role in security and were sustaining the majority of friendly force casualties in Afghanistan. In general, ANSF casualties increased as they had taken on a larger amount of responsibility in conducting security and combat operations, and receive less U.S. enabling capability support, such as counter-improvised explosive device, close air support, and emergency medical evacuation. During 2014, ANSF casualties were roughly the same as they were over the same period last year.

The attrition rate in the ANA continues to pose challenges to ANSF development. The ANSFs monthly overall attrition rates, which take into account killed in action, death, dropped from rolls, retirements, and separations, remained consistent in 2014 and did not deviate significantly from 2013 levels, and hovered at approximately 2.1 percent. The ANA averaged approximately 2.2 percent attrition with a low of 1.8 percent in March 2014 and a peak of 3.3 percent in December 2013 and April 2014. In the first quarter of 2014, ANA average monthly attrition rate was 2.6 percent. Until December 2013, the ANA was authorized to staff to 115 percent of the tashkil authorizations for enlisted soldiers. The main causes of attrition include high operational tempo, sustained risk, soldier care and quality of life, and leave issues. Afghan casualties increased since the ANSF took the lead for security in June 2013.

In addition to enemy action, casualties in the 2014 fighting season could be contributed to several other factors, such as lack of medical training and medical kits, casualty evacuation delays, and the overall condition of Afghan medical capabilities. ISAF and the ANSF are aggressively addressing several ways to improve casualty care, such as training combat lifesaver skills and distributing medical kits so that soldiers can give self-aid and buddy-aid at the point of injury; using Mi-17 helicopters for casualty evacuation; and improving Afghan medical capabilities and long-term care.

From May 2007 to October 2014, coalition forces suffered 120 confirmed insider attacks, which resulted in 161 killed-in-action and 251 wounded-in-action. Comparing the period of April 1September 15, 2014, with the same time frame in 2013, insider attacks slightly declined from five to four. One such high-profile event took place at a Kabul training facility on August 5, 2014, when an ANA soldier killed U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene, the deputy commander of CSTC-A, and wounded 14 others.

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Page last modified: 01-04-2019 17:08:17 ZULU