The US has begun the process of downsizing the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). A case in point:
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on the US military’s decision to scrap all 16 planes in a fleet of C-27 transport aircraft bought for the Afghan National Army Air Force. Over the last few years, the US spent $600 million on the purchase of these aircraft for the provision of logistics support to the ANSF. However, most of the aircraft have since been grounded due to a lack of maintenance. According to Stars and Stripes:
Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA, failed to meet the requirements of their contract to maintain the fleet, according to an email from U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, who was quoted in the Journal.
The entire fleet of C-27As was grounded in December 2011 and even recently only four to six planes have been able to operate at any one time, Afghan Air Force spokesman Col. Mohammad Bahadur said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.
The downsizing of the ANSF exemplified above is a consequence of two important decisions made by US and other ISAF nations.
First, at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012, the US and other ISAF nations decided that the ANSF budget would be reduced from the current $11 billion per year to $4.1 billion per year by the end of 2017. (The US would contribute $2.3 billion, the rest of ISAF would contribute $1.3 billion, and the Afghan government would provide $500 million per year.) Since this new funding level is not enough to support the current force of 352,000 troops, the ANSF would have to shrink to 228,500 troops. According to the summit communique:
The preliminary model for a future total ANSF size, defined by the International Community and the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, envisages a force of 228,500 with an estimated annual budget of US$4.1billion, and will be reviewed regularly against the developing security environment.
Second, the US plans to draw down its military forces in Afghanistan to a low level. So far, US forces in Afghanistan have been reduced from a high of 100,000 troops in 2011 to 68,000 troops today. Over the next two years, the US will reduce its forces further. The Los Angeles Times reports plans to reduce US forces down to somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 troops by the end of 2014:
The Obama administration plans on keeping 6,000 to 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, fewer than previously reported, and will confine most of them to fortified garrisons near the capital, leaving Afghan troops largely without American advisers in the field to fight a still-powerful insurgency, U.S. officials said.
A force of 9,000 or fewer US troops will be unable to provide any significant advisory, training, mentoring, or combat support programs for the ANSF.
The future of the ANSF
The process of building the ANSF began in 2003 and was accelerated starting in 2008 in conjunction with the surge of US forces in Afghanistan. Today the ANSF, including Army, Air Forces, Border Guards, and Police, is close to a previously planned goal of 352,000 troops. In addition, the Afghan Army had planned a complete force structure: armor, artillery, special operations forces, aircraft, logistics, training, intelligence, medical, etc., etc….
Given the decisions on ANSF budget and US troop levels, the current size of the ANSF is unsustainable, and a complete force structure cannot be achieved. Therefore, it is no surprise that the buildup of the ANSF has stopped and downsizing has begun. By 2017, the ANSF will be smaller, lighter (fewer heavy weapons), and less well trained; it also will have fewer combat service and support assets.
Exit question: If a force of 352,000 Afghan security personnel plus 100,000 US troops has not defeated the Taliban, what can Afghanistan expect after this force has been reduced to 228,500 Afghan security personnel and fewer than 9,000 US troops?