Afghan National Army Order of Battle September 2009 update

The Afghan National Army Order of Battle has been significantly updated [see ANA OOB page 4]. Each headquarters unit and battalion is now rated with a Capability Milestone (CM) level, which indicates its operational capability.

CM1: capable to lead operations independently

CM2: capable to lead operations with ISAF support

CM3: capable of operations with ISAF lead

CM4: not capable of operations

U/F: Unit has not been fielded as of June 2009, but is planned to be fielded by the end of 2009

These are the official definitions; however, they should be used with caution. Rating of individual units can be subject to some political influence, a former Operational Mentor and Liaison Team advisor to the ANA told The Long War Journal. While CM rating can give an indication of the relative capability of different units (a CM1 rated unit will usually perform better than a CM2 unit), the rating system is less reliable when describing a unit’s actual capability (a CM1-rated unit may not really be capable of leading operations independently). [See ANA OOB page 4 for a more detailed definition of the various CM levels.]

The ANA assigned strength is 91,000 out of the current goal of 134,000, including a 9.1 percent absent-without-leave (AWOL) rate in combat units. 117 battalion-sized units have been fielded out of a goal of 179. 76 are already capable of leading operations (CM1 or CM2 level). Between October 2008 and May 2009, the ANA led 54 percent of operations.

The current plan is to reach 134,000 by the end of 2011. However, Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense has proposed accelerating this to early 2011. This would be done by using makeshift facilities rather than permanent ones; providing older weapons, recently swapped out for NATO-standard weapons to second-tier forces; using as many former Afghan Army officers, though aging, as possible; and expanding training and education facilities. However, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, and some ANA Corps commanders caution that such a pace could threaten the quality of the force. This pace would also require major as yet unidentified expansions in funding, in training facilities and trainers, in equipment, and in partnering and mentoring.

There has also been discussion of expanding the ANA beyond the currently planned 134,000 personnel. No definitive decision has been made, but an expansion to 240,000 by the end of 2014 has been discussed in various media reports. This goal would be achieved by continuing the current planned rate of expansion past the end of 2011 through to the end of 2014.


Capitol Division Headquarter (Kabul) became operational on March 21, 2009. It is responsible for security in Kabul and surrounding districts. It commands 2 infantry brigades and the Headquarters Security Support Brigade.

Headquarters Security Support Brigade has formed. This brigade is tasked with providing security forces for ANA facilities in Kabul.

Six commando battalions out of a planned 8 battalions are operational. One commando battalion is assigned to each of the 5 ANA Corps as a quick reaction force. And the 6th commando battalion has been assigned to the newly formed National Commando Brigade (Kabul). The Commando Brigade will eventually comprise 3 commando battalions. The 7th commando battalion will be operational by January 2010.

Of the 18 planned infantry brigade Headquarters, 15 have formed so far. 3rd Brigade/ 207th Corps will be added starting the end of 2009, and 4th brigade / 201st Corps will be added at some time in the future. The location of the last brigade has not yet been identified, but some speculate it will be 3rd brigade / 209th Corps to parallel the establishment of 3rd brigade / 207th Corps.

In the past, a standard ANA infantry brigade consisted of 5 battalions: 3 infantry battalions, a combat support battalion, and a combat service support battalion. With the approval of the ANA’s force expansion, this standard organization has changed. The ANA is now in the process of adding a 6th battalion (an infantry battalion) to ANA infantry brigades. This means each infantry brigade will have 4 infantry battalions. By the end of 2009, a total of 9 ANA infantry brigades will have this additional infantry battalion.

The ANA has begun forming Combat Support Battalions (CSBs) at the Corps level. Until now, all CSBs were brigade-level units. These battalions consists of corps artillery, engineering units, MP, and medical and intelligence units. 201st Corp will receive the first Corps CSB in August 2009, and 203rd will receive the second Corps CSB in December 2009.

The 1st brigade of 203rd Corps, based in Khost province, is the first ANA brigade where all the units within the brigade (the brigade headquarters, its 5 subordinate battalions and its Garrison Support Unit) have all reached CM1 status, capable of operating independently without coalition assistance.

The 3rd Brigade of 201st Corps, the ANA’s mechanized brigade, had its commando battalion replaced with an infantry battalion. Its armored battalion and its mechanized infantry battalions are being operated as infantry battalions due to a lack of maintenance capability for its heavy equipment.

Operational Coordination Centers

The ANSF have established Operational Coordination Centers (OCCs). These are localized command centers that coordinate the security activities of all the security forces (ANA, ANP and ISAF) within an area with the national command centers: National Police Command Center (NPCC) and the National Military Command Center (NMCC).

Two types of OOC have been established. The OCC-Region types coordinate activities within a region, and OCC-Provincial types coordinate activities within a province. Five OCC-Region and 34 OCC-Province have been established. Each center is under the command of the ANA and reports directly to the provincial brigade or the regional corps headquarters, although close ties are maintained with the national command centers. The OCC staffs are composed of Operations, Intelligence, Air, Logistics, and Personnel sections. The normal complement to an OCC contains 15 ANA members, 15ANP members, 7 NDS members, 2-4 International Security Assistance Force mentors, and 2-4 Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan mentors. Border areas also include representatives from the ABP.

The OCC-Region functions as a regional operations center that enables ANSF to coordinate and monitor the security of the country. This type of command center receives requests for assistance from respective Provincial Operations Coordination Centers (OCC-Ps) in its region, conducts mission analyses, and determines the appropriate response force. It then alerts, deploys, and provides command and control of those forces while maintaining a communications link with the NPCC and the NMCC. The OCC-R and OCC-P each produce response plans to either enemy activity or, in coordination with Non-Governmental Organizations and/or the local population, natural disasters or humanitarian crises.

It is important to note that the Operational Coordination Centers are brand-new organizations within the ANSF. They will probably require some time to develop operating procedures, train, and gain experience before they become fully effective.


The Afghan National Army (ANA) Communications Support Element (CSE), along with mentors from Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), have established a tactical signal battalion. The ultimate goal is to increase CSE’s tactical communications capabilities, allowing them to provide tactical C4 (command, control, communications, and computer systems) services between the National Military Command Center (NMCC) and the ANA’s 5 Corps and the ANAAC. The CSE is targeting operational self sufficiency within the next 12 to18 months.

Officer training

The Command and Staff College completed it course development in April. Four sets of programs spans the length of professional officer training from Lieutenant to General. With this, the training for officers through each rank has been standardize across the entire ANSF including Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and other Afghan agencies.

This year, an inaugural class of 84 lieutenants graduated from the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, a four-year school modeled after West Point. Next year the academy is scheduled to produce about 300 more lieutenants.


The conversion from Russian-made small arms to NATO-made small arms continues in the 201st Corps, 203rd Corps, 205th Corps, and Capital Division. Conversion will be complete by the spring of 2010. Uparmored HUMVEES continue to be fielded. There are currently 2,000 fielded with a goal of 4,200 by mid 2010.



  • Still too many CM3 and CM4 on the list. I’m also a bit skeptical of the CM1s, too. If these units are so capable, then why is the Taliban doing so well these days? Why is there such alarm coming from NATO as well as the US Army? Why aren’t more Afghans standing up and fighting the Taliban? How bad is corruption in the CM1 units? If the people don’t trust the Afghan Army to protect them from the Taliban, then we are certainly fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan. At this stage of the game (going into our 9th year), the Afghan Army should be taking on most of the responsibilities of fighting this war, yet the NATO troops are still doing the bulk of the fighting. If the Taliban is making a comeback with the local population, then how effective is the Afghan Army and is this really worth the effort?

  • Raighne Delaney says:

    Can anyone tell me what percentage of the ANA consists of Pashtuns? at the officer, NCO and enlisted levels?
    Based on the incident location reports, overlayed with ethnic boundaries, I am worried that we aren’t really fighting the “Taliban,” the religious organization, but we are really fighting the Pashtun tribes, with 10 million on one side of the border and another 25 million in the safe haven on the Pakistan side.
    Can anyone also comment on whether or not this is the case?

  • zotz says:

    Gen. McCrystal said that even in Pashtun areas the Taliban have little popular support. But the government is so venal and corrupt that people are turning to the Taliban out of frustration. Most of the ANA are Tajiks and other minority tribes. This is why McCrystal says offensive ops are so ineffective. For every one Taliban soldier we kill we create three more.

  • cjr says:

    Not exactly.
    We are fight those poor mountain tribes(who happen to be Pashtun) who are seeking to increase their wealth and power thought murder, terror and theft from the (relatively) wealthier lowland tribes, some of whom are in Afghanistan and some of whom are in Pakistan.
    Taliban play the religion angle because it is convinient. It’s useful propaganda to justify activities that otherwise could not be justified. And the label helps them get wealthy Saudi Wahabi funimentalists to dontate money to them.
    Put simply, Taliban is just a large-scale extortion racket. Its a old tradition in the area that dates back thousands (yes, thousands) of years.

  • Rosario says:

    Hello CJ,
    Can you comment on ANA recruiting efforts? If the quality of ANA afghan recruits are like hash smoking bunch on this disturbing video:
    those EOB plans will not be worth anything.

  • cjr says:

    In this report, nothing is said about the circumstances of this particular ANA unit. Is it a typical unit or did the reporter search for months to find the worst unit he could? It seems the reporter wants you to think this is typical(by making several unsupported statement), but he provides no actual evidence one way or the other. Therefore, this report is of little value if you want to assess the OVERALL quality of the ANA.
    That said, this report is probably accurate for many ANA units. Remember, Afghanistan is one of the poorest, most dysfunctional countries in the world. Of course its army is going to reflect the dysfunctions of its country. However, assuming that the ANA, with all its dysfunctions, can not succeed is not correct. The ANA is fighting the Taliban, an organization that has its own major dysfunctions.
    In the long run the side that will win will wont be the side that produces an efficient, problem free organization because neither side will. The side that will win will be the one that produces the “less bad” organization. And in my opinion, which side that is has yet to be decided, and wont be for a few years….

  • cjr says:

    Liberty Ship
    I could ask the same question of the Taliban. The ANA has been fighting for 8 years. But at the same time the Taliban has also been fighting for 8 years also. If the ANA is really doing so poorly, why hasn’t the Taliban won already?
    If the Taliban is so screwed up that it cant win after 8 years, then of course it worth putting the effort into the ANA.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    The ANA is in poor shape. US/UK forces have to wait until ANA show up so they can search homes. Why, out of over 120 Marines, there is only 12 ANA? We are really fighting an uphill battle, and its true, most ANA are Tajiks and other minority tribes. The talibs have’nt won coz NATO forces do most of the fghting. We leave, its OVER.

  • cjr says:

    At the same time, the ANA has taken over security for the entire city of Kabul with little support from ISAF.

  • JNelson says:

    To begin with, let’s cut the defeatist attitude. I’m rather sure this s a site frequented by a lot of veterans so empty anti-war rhetoric is just going to be laughed at.
    Anyway, what 10 to 1 ratio of Marines to ANA are you talking about? To my knowledge, the ANA is on an almost 1 to 1 basis with International forces. They certainly OUTNUMBER foreign combat forces in the country… now, if your talking about a particular Marine unit then fine… but one Marine unit does not necessarily reflect the entire war in Afghanistan. That’s also not to say that ANA units are generally at the same operational capacity of NATO units.
    The Taliban haven’t won yet because they can’t win militarily. The Mujihadeen relied on foreign support to defeat the Soviets and even then they had to bankroll on the Soviet’s alienation of the rural population.
    Now, to act like the ANA itself couldn’t handle the job is naive… it’s not about whether Afghani security forces can be improved to a level of competence, it’s about the political situation in the country and whether the corruption and ineffectiveness of the central government will persist. If the Afghan government is not accepted as legitimate by the Afghan people, then citizens will turn to the Taliban as the legitimate authority and the youth will act as recruits for the Talibs instead of the free government.
    So people keep asking “Why isn’t the ANA capable of taking over the mission yet?” The answer is complicated. One very good explanation I heard from a friend of mine was simple: “We’ve been fighting this war 7 times for 1 year.” Although that was back in 2008, it doesn’t seem too different… In the year after he’d say that, there would be a newly established ROE, new strategy, and a new commanding general.
    So I’ll lay it out why this war isn’t “won” yet as best as I can: Nation-building has been under-resourced and under-manned; Anti-terrorism has been the focus of the war in the country, being short-sighted and not solving the problem; For most of the war, there has been no coherent focus, objective, or strategy; Without any real resistance, the drug trade has boomed in the country and the economy is dependent on rural income; The Afghan government has grown to become immensly corrupt, partially because of the preceding point; The Taliban have been allowed to re-build their forces, re-grow their influence, and try and test their tactics which has made them an increasingly more effective fighting force…
    Many of these reasons are ambiguous and there are of course more but that’s the best I can do for now… or want to do right now. Notice that no reason lies in the inevitability of defeat, because IT IS NOT INEVITABLE. That doesn’t mean that with escalation success will imminently come either, which would also be naive and a blatant lie.
    But the result of premature withdrawal can only reap chaos in the country and almost inevitable defeat of the as-of-now ill-prepared ANSF. Such withdrawal only asks for defeat and will, at the least, considerably damage American credibility worldwide. Such a withdrawal will only allow for a new terrorist safe haven and set the conditions for a new and possibly much more devastating set of terrorist attacks against the United States.
    Withdrawa l = Defeat

  • Raighne Delaney says:

    If most of the ANA consists of Tajiks and other minority tribes, how does the Pashtun population view them, when the ANA operates in Pashtun areas? Assuming they do operate in those areas. We probably all agree that we need Pashtun faces in ANA uniforms when operating in Pashtun areas, even if they are more militia than regulars. Why are we not there yet after 8 years? Corruption? Pashtun loyalty? Nepotism?
    Sorry for my ignorance, but like many, I’ve focused on Iraq over the last few years, and I’m trying to get up to speed on the ANA.

  • JNelson says:

    I know the public discussion has focused on Iraq for the last 6 years, so it only makes sense that people don’t really understand what is happening in Afghanistan.
    Read these:
    All above are hailed as markers of success and hope in the training of the new Afghan military; Nonetheless, the mission is still far from over.
    Refer to my above comment since it partially answers your question about why we haven’t “won” in Afghanistan yet, but as for the issue of diversity in the conventional Afghan Army, that is a much more difficult question to answer.
    The problem’s actually similar to what occurred when training a new military in Iraq. It’s not that Pashtuns aren’t signing up–actually, they constitute a majority–the problem is that the different ethnic groups do not cooperate when integrated into the same fighting unit.(I am not speaking for every unit, but the ethnic in fighting is a serious problem in the ANA right now.)
    It’s not something I can fully articulate here but if you understand the obstacles that the U.S. faced when training a new Iraqi military, then you should understand the brevity of the task at hand when it seems a competent, effective, and diverse Afghan military will be even more difficult to construct.
    Table of ANA ethnic make-up:
    (turn to page 21)


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram