Numbers, numbers, numbers.
As I’m wading backwards through the last several weeks of posts, articles, papers, and other items, I’ll be revisiting things that have probably been put to bed already. Apologies if the ongoing conversation has moved elsewhere, but I find virtue in dealing with the things I read as I read them.
From Nightwatch circa 2010-01-20:
The Afghan government announced its goals for expanding its security forces in the next three to five years. The plan calls for security force levels to reach 400,000, including 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 national police, the Associated Press reported today.
At present Afghanistan claims to have 94,000 police officers and 97,000 soldiers. A British Colonel who is a member of the planning team for the security forces said that the team would be asked to approve a goal of 134,000 soldiers and 109,000 police by the end of this year. That would increase to 172,000 soldiers and 134,000 police by the end of next year.
The numbers are mainly on paper. The purpose of this entry is to update readers about the official numbers.
The literacy rate and level of familiarity with technology are so low that the goal of adding 40,000 soldiers this year is not credible and can only be a paper drill. In the past 8 years, the annual average increase has been just over 11,700 soldiers and more than half desert. What would make anyone think an increase of 40,000 soldiers, regardless of their lack of capability, was achievable this year? Moreover, while Afghanistan needs more police, it urgently needs paramilitary police.
“Not credible” is the polite way of saying “this is bullshit.” I’ve always been wary of giving credence to the development targets for a professional Afghan security force, and this does nothing to assuage that wariness. It seems that it must constantly be reiterated that Afghanistan is not Iraq; hell, you can’t do justice by comparing it to Pakistan either, which has had enough stability to maintain the ISI and other security operations for far longer than Afghanistan has had the Taliban pried from its capitol. At a basic level, to manage as large numbers of professional (somewhat Westernized) security forces as is targeted in Afghanistan, there has to be enough literacy amongst a managerial corps to handle those forces. And it simply doesn’t exist.
Not to be facile, but it takes time to build basic education into an illiterate society, and it won’t be accomplished by any exit deadline set by the West. This is a ridiculous inflation of the capability of Afghan infrastructure and Western efficacy in this field.
The exponential increase the “British colonel” is describing just makes me heave a sigh. I bet Rory Stewart is doing the same thing.