Afghan National Army update: July 2011
Since its inception, the developmental plan for the Afghan National Army (ANA) has been focused on expanding its size. Work toward that goal has aimed primarily at creating new infantry battalions. The ANA is now close to reaching its goal of building the force up to about 90 infantry battalions. The last infantry battalion will be fielded sometime between August and October 2011.
The development of the ANA is still far from complete, however. Once the fighting forces have been built, ANA training efforts will shift from expanding the size of the ANA to enhancing the quality of the existing forces. This article describes two new initiatives in this regard. One program involves the creation of Quick Reaction Forces, and the other the establishment and expansion of combat support organizations.
ANA Quick Reaction Forces
The overall ANA fighting force is organized into six ANA corps and one ANA division. Each corps/division is responsible for one major area of the country. Each corps has three to four subordinate brigades, and each brigade has four infantry battalions as its basic fighting unit. Each infantry battalion is assigned a specific area for which it is responsible (AOR). The battalion's "AOR" mission is to secure its area from internal and external threats.
A complementary mission that usually exists within an army structure, but is not currently in the ANA's, is the "Quick Reaction Force" (QRF) mission. QRFs are not responsible for specific AORs; their mission is instead to provide support for AOR mission forces in response to specific situations. For example, if an enemy mounted a large attack that was beyond the ability of the local AOR forces to handle, the QRF would be called in to support the local AOR forces for the duration of the emergency.
Up until now, ANA did not have a specific force assigned for the QRF mission. There is now a plan to create one. Seven QRF battalions will be built, approximately one QRF battalion for each of the ANA's corps/divisions. They will be created by converting existing infantry battalions into QRF battalions.
The QRF battalions will be organized as motorized infantry and will be equipped with M1117 armored personnel carriers in order to enhance their mobility and protection. Orders have been placed for 490 M1117's with deliveries to begin in November 2011. All 490 will be delivered by the end of December 2012. The first QRF battalion will be trained and fielded by the spring of 2012, and the last one around the spring 2013.
ANA infantry battalions are equipped primarily with unarmored HUMVEES. So this will be the first major deployment of armored vehicles into the ANA. Note that the ANA does have one tank battalion and one mechanized infantry battalion (assigned to the 3rd Brigade of 111st Division). However, these troops are being used as ordinary infantry, due to the lack of maintenance capability for the armored vehicles. This is why the second program, described below, will be important to the success of the QRFs.
ANA combat support organizations
The ANA's second area of focus will be combat support organizations. The ANA has been building these units, but up until now, it was occurring at a slow pace. The development of these units will now be accelerated, with new units being built and existing ones expanded. These units include:
- Corps Logistics Battalions (CLB) and Combat Service Support Battalions (CSSB). CLB contain the logistics units that support each of the ANA Corps. They transport supplies from the national logistics center in Kabul to the ANA Corps. They also contain the maintenance units for the Corps' heavier equipment, including armored vehicles. CSSB are logistic and maintenance support units also, but they are the units that support the individual ANA brigades.
- Combat Support Battalions (CSB). CSB provide specialized combat support function for the infantry battalions. They include scouting, engineering, and long range artillery units. Currently, most ANA brigades have a CSB but they are underdeveloped. The plan is to have one fully developed CSB assigned to each of the ANA's 24 combat brigades; each CSB which will support the four infantry battalions within each ANA brigade.