The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a new 223 page report by Anthony Cordesman, “Afghan National Security Forces: What It Will Take to Implement the ISAF Strategy.”
From the release:
President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan is critically dependent upon the transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). His speech announcing this strategy called for the transfer to begin in mid-2011. However, creating the Afghan forces needed to bring about security and stability is a far more difficult problem than many realize, and poses major challenges that will endure long after 2011.
A successful effort to create effective Afghan forces, particularly forces that can largely replace the role of US and allied forces, must overcome a legacy of more than eight years of critical failures in both force development and training, and in the broader course of the US effort in Afghanistan. Such an effort must also be shaped as part of an integrated civil-military effort, and not treated simply as an exercise in generating more Afghan military and police forces.
Success will be equally dependent on strategic patience. There is a significant probability that the ANSF will not be ready for any major transfer of responsibility until well after 2011. Trying to expand Afghan forces too quickly, creating forces with inadequate force quality, and decoupling Afghan force development from efforts to deal with the broad weaknesses in Afghan governance and the Afghan justice system, will lose the war. America’s politicians, policymakers, and military leaders must accept this reality—and persuade the Afghan government and our allies to act accordingly—or the mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed.
This analysis shows that the US and ISAF have made major progress in many areas since the new strategy was adopted in 2009. At the same time, it indicates that past mistakes and under-resourcing have left a legacy that will take time to overcome. ANSF development is still a high-risk effort, and one where imposing artificial deadlines, and emphasizing force quantity over force quality, could lose the war.
Moreover, it shows that there are critical strategic disconnects between the overall ANSF force development effort and both civil-military operations and an effective approach to transferring responsibility to Afghan forces. These problems are potentially crippling in the case of the Afghan police forces – where the current plan does not call for adequate paramilitary elements and seeks to develop an overall level of police capabilities that are not matched to Afghan capabilities, effective governance, or the other elements of a justice system.
There are a wide range of areas where the current force development effort needs more outside help and strategic patience, and the study outlines possible improvements. It suggests that a zero-based recommendation may be needed for the police effort to examine both the need for more paramilitary forces and to determine a credible approach to integrating police development with the progress that can actually be made in governance and the rule of law.
More generally, it outlines a series of improvements that need to be made in fighting corruption, in improving partnership, and in conducting the force development effort. This includes setting more realistic deadlines, providing all of the necessary resources in both funds and trainers, and focusing on creating a force with enduring capability that can actually accept responsibility as the US and its allies gradually withdraw their forces.
Download the full report here.