Is the Afghan National Army ready to face its biggest challenge yet?
Afghanistan is crucial to the security of the region. That requires, amongst other things, a successful transition of responsibility for primary security to the Afghan National Army (ANA).
Afghanistan has a long history of interruptions in its political process due to tribal rivalries and violence, external invasion and occupation and the existence of tribal militias. The country’s history of resistance against foreign invaders and internal insurgencies rides simultaneously with crippling issues of gender discrimination and illiteracy. Only 28% duction (UNDP, 2007) paints a bleak picture for the country’s already uncertain future.
In 2002, realizing that strengthening ANA was crucial to ushering stability in Afghanistan, US and NATO forces began training and organizing the ANA. Having achieved some major objectives of the War on Terror (WOT) and with an exit strategy scheduled for 2014, building the ANA’S capacity has assumed more importance. Over the years, NATO and US trainers have faced numerous challenges due to post-soviet era chaos and the vio- ineffective central government.
Clearly, no quick solution is possible. A report titled, “It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like an Army,” published in the LA Times, quotes Colonel Leppert talking about the difficulty of the job, “We are building an airplane while the airplane is flying.” While praising the hard work of the Afghan troops, the report described how the “Afghan commanders and soldiers complain of poor pay, faulty weapons, ammunition shortages and lack of protective gear. US trainers, while praising Afghan soldiers for