We’re going to be hearing more in the coming weeks and months about how the Afghan army is increasingly ready to shoulder more of the burden of defending its nation from the Taliban. But there’s a Marine assessment from last fall now floating around, and it gives the ground truth a good scrub. Among the lowlights:
Afghans are not Marines. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have to be good enough to defeat the enemy that they face but do not have to be a mirror image of the capabilities of the Marine Corps.
The ANSF‟s lack of equipment made it more difficult to partner. For example, one Afghan unit rated 65 HMMWVs but only had two that were operational. Lacking equipment such as metal detectors, fragmentation vests, and other personnel protective equipment, made it difficult for them to perform the same missions as the Marines.
There were issues with the Afghans hoarding gear and equipment at all levels, locked up in containers. “Owning” their equipment lent prestige and power to the commander.
Whenever a new ANSF unit was fielded, it may not have had all of its equipment. The priority was placed on the creation of units to show progress but the units were often under trained and under equipped. For example, an Afghan route clearance company was fielded, although it was subsequently rated as untrained…This type of situation occurred so frequently that the division began to expect and plan for it.
The army had systemic problems all the way to the national level. Afghan forces were often deficient in both administration and logistics. Their capabilities were at the crawl/walk stages in most districts.
There is a higher tolerance for degrees of corruption among the Afghans than among US forces. Corruption is systemic to the Afghan way of doing business and will be difficult to change if it can be at all. Planners made the assumption that everyone was corrupt, rightly or wrongly, and factored it into their planning effort.