US and ISAF forces are planning to end combat operations in Afghanistan by mid-2013 and to withdraw their troops by the end of 2014. As they withdraw, the Afghan National Security Forces will have to take an increasingly large share of security responsibility across Afghanistan, and eventually for the entire country.
Al Jazeera provides an update on the development of the Afghan Army and its readiness to take over operations. While the report is far from comprehensive, it contains some useful insights, including the following points.
Overall, the Afghan Army doesn’t lack for courage or willingness to fight. It has a basic level of leadership and tactical expertise. Its training capability has progressed to where it can be conducted wholly by Afghan personnel. On the other hand, many important elements of combat support are inadequate, including air support, intelligence, medical services, counter-IED, and heavy weapons.
Comparisons between the ANA’s performance and Western military standards are often inappropriate. While the ANA doesn’t get things done the Western way, it does seem to be get most things done the Afghan way. Take logistics, for example: While Western militaries emphasize advanced and detailed planning, Afghans get by with last-minute improvisation and making do with what they have.
Finally, there is a war going on for the hearts and minds of the ANA. The Taliban are heavily engaged in strategies to undermine the resolve and morale of ANA personnel. One strategy is direct threats by the Taliban against individual ANA soldiers and their families warning them to leave the ANA. Another is the instigation of green-on-blue attacks: ANA soldiers or Taliban infiltrators attacking ISAF troops. And another is spreading conspiracy rumors and memes through the ANA.