Viewing conflicts through the eye of Counterinsurgency COIN – Since 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan — Faizal Karim, a sophomore at the National Military Academy here, stood outside a classroom holding his English-language homework assignment. For a group of cadets nearby, a lecture in physics was ending.
Bright-eyed, articulate and in a four-year course modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Karim is a hopeful face in Afghanistan’s nascent national security forces. He is 21 and rejects the Taliban. “I want to serve my country’s people,” he said, speaking in confident English.
But several days before, an altogether different side of Afghanistan’s security forces was evident when a Dutch and Afghan patrol visited a police compound in Oruzgan Province. The police officers there were cultivating poppy within the compound’s walls, openly participating in the heroin trade. The Afghan Army squad that visited them, itself only partly equipped, did nothing.
These wildly contrasting glimpses of Afghanistan’s security forces illustrate the mix of achievements and frustrations that have accompanied international efforts to create a capable Afghan Army and a police force after decades of disorder and war. They also underscore the urgency behind the renewed push to recruit and train these units, which is now under way with an influx of equipment and training approved by the Bush administration last year.
Yet, even after several years of efforts to create new army and police units, it remains difficult to fully assess their readiness. Some units, especially in the army, are motivated and much better equipped than any Afghan forces were five years ago. Others, especially in the police, remain visibly ragtag, underequipped, disorganized, of uncertain loyalty and with links to organized drug rings.
American officials say it will take at least a few years before most of the Afghan forces become more ready and reliable, and perhaps a decade before they are capable of independent operations. But they also say that the resources and plans are now in place to make such ambitions possible.
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