By Elisabeth Braw
As we speak, U.S. troops are training Afghan armed forces. U.S.forces were also training them last year, and the year before that. In fact, American troops have been training them ever since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, to the tune of $4 billion per year. Other NATO countries have been training Afghan forces, too. But despite these enormous teaching efforts, the Afghans are nowhere near ready to fight on their own. What we need — and not just in Afghanistan — are dedicated Teacher Corps of didactically talented, well-trained troops.
Since the end of the Cold War, Western countries’ military teaching missions have “not been 100 percent successful,” as Gen. Richard Barrons, who previously commanded Britain’s Joint Forces Command, diplomatically puts it. To offer just two supporting facts: by 2016, the U.S. alone had spent more than $70 billion rebuilding Afghanistan’s security forces, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; meanwhile, half of Afghan troops who came to train in the U.S. have gone AWOL, while others have absconded at home.
And despite all the training, the Taliban still control 45 percent of Afghanistan’s districts. In Helmand and Kandahar, 40 percent of senior Afghan officers were so incompetent they had to be fired. So bad is the situation that NATO has said its members will send another 3,000 troops this year. Separately, last summer the U.S.began deploying several thousand troops there. All these troops will train Afghan forces; the SIGAR report says the U.S. will have to keep training Afghan soldiers until 2020. In Iraq, meanwhile, the NATO-trained Iraqi Army was for years thrashed by local militias.
But it is possible to train an ally. Russia is doing it in Syria. Iran has trained one that’s not even a national military: Hezbollah. And U.S. Special Forces have successfully trained small groups of special operators in countries from Colombia to the Philippines.
Picture: Tech. Sgt. Joe Zuccaro (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/160675) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons