NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

23 Feb. 2011

Press briefing

by the Commander of NATO's Training mission in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General William Caldwell

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good morning. Thank you very much for coming here today. great to see so many of you, and I have a slight suspicion you're not here to see me, but General William Caldwell, who's come all the way from Kabul. He'll start with a short introduction and then he'll be happy to take questions.

You already have the slide package and some more information outside on the ANSF vetting processing, and of course, General Caldwell's CV. General.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL (Commander, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan): Thank you, Oana. And to all of you, good morning. And it is good to be back here. I think it was the last time—some of you, I recognize some of the faces here—I saw you was last September when I was back here in Brussels.

This has been a productive week for us. I think as you all know we came in on Sunday and we did... we have had some good sessions. We met with the NATO folks and also with the European Union. I was able to address both the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the NATO Military Committee on Monday where I took that time to focus on the progress of the Afghan National Security Force—that's been transpired over the last 16 months that I've been in Afghanistan—and then we talked about our vision, our way ahead for where we're going to go this next year in 2011. And then yesterday I was invited to speak to the EU, the European Union, the Political Security Committee, where I focused on the growth and the development of the Afghan National Police specifically, and our renewed partnership with EUPOL.

I was told by them afterwards that I was the first commander from NATO forces in Afghanistan that have come back and actually addressed the EU Political Security Committee.

As commander of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan I just want to say again it's an honour to be here and speak with you again today and share truly what many are starting to call the amazing story, the NATO trainers and men and women who are filling the ranks today of the Afghan National Security Force.

Often times we speak of numbers of recruits, size of the force, the amount of money contributed to describe the successes. All those are important factors. However, what's most important to our nations and to the people really out there is not just these numbers, although important, but what I'd like to do is focus on the other side and that's kind of the unsung story, we say, of NATO and the coalition's contributions to building the security force in Afghanistan.

In November 2009, when we stood up NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, it was established that this training mission was filled truly with the challenge of taking many different agendas, of countries that were operating in Afghanistan and bringing some coherence to the overall effort of developing the police and also of developing the army.

When we stood the command up NATO Training Mission had two nations and 30 trainers. Just to put it in perspective. And as we were trying to build an army and a police force. Today NATO Training Mission has 32 nations and we have over 1,300 contributing NATO trainers. A significant uplift that occurred literally in just this short... really it was about 15 months now since the command stood up. We went from two nations and 30 trainers to 32 nations and 1,300 trainers, and we still have more pledges coming in. We already have nations that have already pledged to provide additional forces, and we are still in dialogue with other nations who are considering making pledges to the mission.

During this same time the United States and NATO nations surged what they call approximately 40,000 combat forces in order to help bring security and stability to Afghanistan. While this is an incredible sacrifice for each of these countries, it misses what we consider the real story and that really story was the Afghan surge. This is the surge of the Afghans themselves. During the same time that NATO and the United States contributed about 40,000 additional troops the NATO Security Forces or working with the Afghans, in fact, enabled them to grow by 79,000. That's additional new forces in the police and army. So NATO contributed about 40,000, counting the United States and NATO; they, the Afghans, contributed 79,000, almost double the number during the same period of time and contributing to the effort or bringing greater security and stability to Afghanistan.

This surge truly is what we consider astounding. When we consider that in September of 2009, again, just months before that, only 800 Afghans joined their security force that month, and 1,000... well, really 2,000 left for a net result of a decline in the strength of the Afghan National Army in September of 2009 of 1,200 people.

So the army wasn't growing. It was declining in strength in September of 2009. And just two months later when we stood up NATO Training Mission, within 30 days the Afghans were able to start bringing in and recruiting what amounted to 6,000 to more recruits every single moth. We went from 800 recruits in September of '09, to 6,000-plus in December of '09 and have sustained that ever since.

In fact, in some of our training centres the challenge we have had, there are more recruits still today, 15 months later, that want to join the army and the police, than we sometimes have the capacity to bring in, even though we continue to rapidly expand the training bases that we have to facility greater throughput.

We are on track right now to reach the approved growth goal by the international community of 3,005... 305,000, 3-0-5, 305,000 Afghan National Security Force members by October of this year. We're on path and will, in fact, reach that objective given what's going on.

While the sheer numbers do sound amazing, the quality... the quantity of them is not as amazing as the quality is. Again, that's really important to understand. When we first stood up NATO Training Mission all people wanted to talk to us about was increasing the quantity of the forces. While we recognized that was very important and necessary, what was essential was injecting quality into that force. Because without quality it won't endure and be self-sustaining. So we spent some considerable amount of time.

The other challenge we found was only 14 percent of the recruits coming in to the army and the police were literate, so in other words, 86 percent of every new recruit walking in to the army and the police were illiterate. They couldn't read the serial numbers on their weapons, and they couldn't even count the amount of money they were being paid. So what we did within the Afghan National Security Force, working with the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Interior, we collectively came to the decision that we needed to institute mandatory literacy programs for the Afghan National Security Force.

And so by April of last year, about 10 months ago, we had begun to implement within every single training program within Afghanistan mandatory literacy programs, so that we can bring these illiterate young men, some women, up to at least a first grade level of education, so that they can read the serial number on their weapon, they can count the money that they're being paid, they can do an inventory of the equipment that's been given to them, and they can do basic reading and simple arithmetic at the same time.

Today almost every graduate is able to read at the first grade level when they go through our training programs in Afghanistan. In the future our intent is to then take it even one notch level to the third grade level. That's the internationally recognized level of literacy required to call somebody literate in the international community. And so that's the next level that we'd like to take them to.

During this time we have hired 1,200 teachers. These are Afghan citizens who we have hired to be instructors and to teach these courses. Today they have trained over 61,000 young men in our programs, both police and army. And today we have another 58,000 that are in our training programs as we speak. We expect that we will have trained nearly half of the entire Afghan National Security Force by this fall to be at least at the first grade level of literacy. And in addition to that we're expanding this program. We're going to make it even more robust than it currently is as we have watched the resounding achievement that has been able to be accomplished there, and that we want to move to having over 100,000 men and women in the police and army in continuous literacy training programs within their force, so that again we can raise this eventually to about the third grade level.

As I have said at the beginning, although these numbers are important to the international community to read and understand, it won't really tell you the whole story. The unsung story, as we say, not the untold story, but the unsung story, is the story of NATO and this mission.

This week I had the opportunity, as I said, to speak with the NATO parliamentarians and the NATO Military Committee, where I shared this story of the progress of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. Speaking with both groups I reaffirmed the fact that truly NATO is the only organization in this world that could have accomplished all that we have in these past 16 months.

When you consider that today Training Mission Afghanistan has 32 nations contributing with people on the ground operating today inside of Afghanistan, that's one-sixth of the world's countries. One-sixth of the world's nations today in the world have made the decision to contribute men and women, police and army, and civilians to the NATO training mission in order to help us to grow and develop both the police and army withinside of Afghanistan.

Again, that truly is amazing, but this number is still only a part of the story. The larger part is NATO itself. Too often NATO's relevance in this post Cold War world has been challenged and questioned by many. Yet after 30-plus years of serving in many different organizations, both parochial and multinational, I personally can say unequivocally that there is no organization who could have accomplished what we have been able to achieve except for NATO.

The military and police professionals of NATO and its partnered nations have the qualities that make them invaluable to this mission. I would dare say NATO strength really does not lie in its nations' GDPs, or its number of F-16 airplanes or in its carrier battle groups. Rather NATO strength lies in its remarkable people. People whom I have the opportunity and the privilege with to have served with every day in Afghanistan now for 16 months.

These NATO trainers are making the dramatic difference. You know, some people want to talk about the fact we still have some shortages in numbers. What I like to remind them is, when we stood up NATO Training Mission Afghanistan it was two nations and 30 trainers, and NATO was able to, at this point, bring in both NATO partners and NATO countries to have 32 nations and 1,300 trainers with the number continuing to grow as we speak.

This year and next Training Mission Afghanistan will accelerate progress in the building of the Afghan National Security Force by beginning to implement what we call the train-the-trainer programs. Our goal is that by the end of 2012 NATO will have trained enough Afghans that they will become the primary trainers at all of our training institutions. That gives us two years from now, we want to see the Afghans in the lead for training within our training institutions.

So that will set the conditions that by the end of 2014 the Afghans, in fact, can take the lead for overall security in their country, as is stipulated in the Lisbon decree.

To accelerate progress and fulfil our train-the-trainer program we will still need about 20 more trainers from each country over these next two years. Twenty more police, medical or specialty trainers to ensure that we do, in fact, give them the ability to take the lead by the end of 2012.

But I will tell you, though, I'm extremely confident that this will occur and that we, in fact, will have the resources we need, just as have been provided to us over the last 15 months.

I do want to close by just saying I truly am humbled and I have tremendous price at what I see in the NATO trainers and their partners that are staying alongside the Afghan trainees and trainers and I look forward to watching the Afghan trainers take the lead over the next two years, while the NATO trainers continue to mentor and supervise them and provide them the professionalism that is critical to ensure that this force becomes an enduring self-sustaining national security force.

We often use the motto there of "Shohna-ba-Shohna" or "Shoulder-to-Shoulder" and that's exactly what we're doing with our Afghan counterparts on a daily basis, working both within the two ministries of Defence and Interior, all the way down to the tactical level where we see them in the training base where we're teaching them basic rifle marksmanship skills or law enforcement skills and how to be a policeman.

With that I'll close and I'll be glad to take whatever questions you all may have.

OANA LUNGESCU: And please don't forget to introduce yourselves and who you represent.

Q: (Inaudible...), National News Agency of Ukraine. The question is concerning the quality of the soldiers. You know, are there any guarantee that they are... I mean, in Afghan legislation, are there any points which prevent soldiers from leaving the army and coming back to insurgents after the training they've got in the National Training Mission? Is it possible to specify? Thanks.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Well, first of all, let me just say the quality of the Afghan soldier and policeman has risen dramatically over the last 15 months. There's absolutely no comparison to what I found in November of 2009. I mean, to put it in perspective, I had left the United States being in charge of all training for the United States Army as a three star commander in the United States for two years.

I probably understood training and education better than anybody else in the United States Army. And when I arrived as a NATO officer in Afghanistan and saw what we were producing at that time it did very much concern me. It did not have the quality necessary nor producing the quantity required to accomplish the mission at that point.

And what I can tell you is that over the last 15 months we have dramatically improved that. It's everything from... we obviously track about 120 different metrics on a monthly basis to gauge whether or not we're improving the quality of this force, and it's everything from weapons qualification... When we stood up NATO Training Mission there was no requirement to be able to shoot your weapon with accuracy to get out of the army and become a member of the army. You did not have to qualify. Any one of us who are a military person from any nation, both NATO and its partners, would be horrified to have thought we would have done that in our own countries. We would ensure every soldier, man and woman, could accurately shoot their weapon. Yet it was not a requirement in November of 2009.

It is today. We went from what was about a 35 percent qualification rate then to today about a 95 percent qualification rate. And that last little five percent is probably because they just need a pair of glasses. I mean, you know, and we're working that too now. To help even get at and deal with that some.

So we'll continue to even aggressively get that much better. But they can accurately shoot their weapon. When I looked at the fact that, again, back then what were the requirements to graduate from the army training program? There were none. If you were there on the first day of training and you showed up on the last day of training, you graduated. You became a soldier in the Afghan Army.

And I said, (laughs), don't they have to at least know basic first aid, don't they have to understand how to do any basic skill sets at all? And the answer was no, they don't. Today they do. In fact, we do a mid-level, a mid-period of testing and then we do a final testing. So that we are assured today when a soldier, an Afghan soldier, joins the ranks of the Afghan Army he has been taught, and she now too, the basic skill sets required to be a soldier in their army, to bring some qualify into that force.

Q: (Inaudible...)?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Yes, as far as legislation goes when we did stand up NATO Training Mission there was absolutely no what we called... there was nor retirement laws, there was no active duty service obligations. In other words, if you decided to join the army you could quit at any time with absolutely no sense of penalty. There was nor requirement when you joined that you would guarantee that you would serve so many years. Today there is. There are now service obligations. And again, this is not what we have done. Rather the Afghans have done this themselves. Obviously the NATO partners and NATO forces have assisted, and helped think through this process, but ultimately it was the Afghans that did and they have now passed legislation which their government has affirmed, which now house an active duty service obligation, just like it would any of our countries where when they join they have to serve so many years if you're an enlisted soldier, so many years if you're a non-commissioned officer, and so many years if you're an officer.

That was a dramatic turnaround that didn't exist, again, prior to that, which I think has also helped greatly with the levels of attrition that we see, because people now understand when they come in to be a recruit, that if I'm going in as a young enlisted solider, then I'm going to serve a three-year obligation. And I will serve at wherever the government decides to also post me.

Again, which is another key thing we've done in terms of ensuring the distribution of people throughout their country.

OANA LUNGESCU: FT Deutschland.

Q: It's Klaus Hecking from the Financial Times Deutschland. General, two questions, a shorter question and a longer question. The very short question is, what salaries do these recruits receive during the training, and what salary do they receive after they went through this program? And the long question: Recently a few days ago we saw an incident on a German base. There was a so-called, I don't know friendly... an ally, an Afghan soldier, who as soon as he was inside the base then he just opened fire and he just killed people.

How do you ensure that these people who go through your program, and to become very qualified, but this also means more dangerous people, how do you ensure that they don't change sides after they went through your program? Thanks.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Well, first of all, let me express on behalf of NATO Training Mission and the entire International Security Force, our deepest condolences to the country of Germany and to those families that lost three soldiers and had seven wounded from that incident.

And I think many of you have probably heard about that incident. There was a person in an Afghan uniform. They're still establishing his actual identity and going back through the biometrics to see if he's in the database and who he was, but when he did it was an Afghan solider that eventually killed him because obviously clearly it was wrong, this criminal act that was being taken place.

But I would tell you what we have done, about a month ago we developed a paper of which each of you have a copy in your packets, about our vetting process that we use.

That vetting process was not always there. It is now fully implemented and being used, both within the police and in the army. And it's an eight-step vetting process. And it's a very thorough process.

There is never an absolute guarantee for anything, but it is about the most thorough and concise that you can possibly be today where we start from literally when they walk in and look at their identity card, to requiring two letters of certification from an elder or village chief as to their ability to serve and be a part of the Afghan police or army, which either has to be signed or fingerprinted, and then it goes down through the whole eight-step process.

Full biometrics now are captured on everybody. Eye retinas, fingerprints, facial recognition, put into this national database that the Afghans now maintain in coordination with us, and they're thoroughly checked.

What I will tell you in the induction process, in the police and army, about ten percent of every police and army person walking in we do not accept, that we turn away for one thing or another. And some of those are because, through the biometric process, something will come up that leads us to believe this person may not be the kind of person we want to have serving in their security force.

So we do not allow them to progress through the training process if, in fact, it's one of those hits. Some are medical reasons. Some are because our determination is that despite what may be said they, in fact, are underage. We won't allow anybody younger than 18 to join the police or army.

And so we do go through that process and about ten percent are turned away every month. And again, there are so many recruits coming in that we are able to be that selective and turn away that many every month. So, there's a tremendous process.

Then once they get into the training process all of our instructors, both our Afghan instructors and teachers and our NATO and partner instructors and teachers are taught to continue assess and look at these trainees and ask yourself during the process is there something that would lead us to believe they have some kind of... and there's factors that we use that we look at, that they've been told to be observing. It's just as recently as a few months ago, out in Adraskan, near Herat, out west, you know, in our police training centre there, one of our coalition trainers did, in fact, notice some particular kind of behaviour we look for, reported it and after more thorough investigation, and then bringing the person in for questioning, it was determined he had, in fact, been attempting to infiltrate into the force a Taliban member and he was turned over to the Afghan authorities and arrested.

So we stay very vigilant. We continue to look for it. We have, again, a very thorough vetting process as we went back and looked at what happened there. He had no previous record and that's one of the reasons, and had managed to get two letters of recommendation. Again, so there are Afghans who would follow back through that process too. So a pretty thorough way we look at it.

As far as the salaries go, again, in November of 2009 we did not pay an Afghan police a salary that enabled him or her to live at a basic level of living in Afghanistan. They, in fact, got paid about one half of what a private in the army got paid. And so one of the first things NATO Training Mission took on with LOTFA, the Law and Order Trust Fund in the international community is to raise the salaries of the police. And so we brought them up to a level within two months to be commensurate with that of what the army gets.

The generally get, which is about today, $165 as soon as they join the army and the police and that is a basic living wage inside of Afghanistan today. and then on top of that, as they serve for three or more years they get longevity pay increases. If, in fact, they get promoted they get promotion pay increases. If they serve in a hazardous area where there`s a lot of fighting going on they get hazardous duty pay, which is additional monies. And then there are specialties, such as being a counter IED, you know, an improvised explosive device person, or there's a couple of specialties like that where we also pay incentive pay.

So if you're a young Afghan soldier, or policeman today, joining their army or police, the day you join you start being paid in the training base the salary, the initial entry salary of about 165 for each of them.

When you finish your training and go to your first unit you then can start also perhaps receiving all these... some of these additional incentive pays, which literally can double your salary if you're serving in a hazardous area and you do, in fact, get promotion then your pays continue to increase.

So we have fixed what was an inadequate salary for the police. You know, many times people say to me, well, they did before, you know, the police are very corrupt and just not functioning, the people don't believe in them. This is in November 2009. My answer was, well, yes, we don't pay them, we haven't properly trained them and we haven't properly equipped them. I mean, we do have challenges in the police force, but we're going to fix it. We can fix the pay, we can fix the training, and we can fix the equipment. And we've, in fact, done that over the last 15 months to today, if you look at a policeman... I mean, we very often talk about this before and after, and you'll have this slide... I mean, if you look right here, this is where we are today with the police and army and we take great pride in this, because again, there was no mandatory literacy. We were giving them absolutely no hope that they, while serving as a policeman or a soldier in their army, would ever become literate. You joined illiterate and you remained illiterate.

Today, we have literally mandatory literacy programs. You do not have an option. You will go to school and you will learn to read and write because that's required of any professional police force and any professional army. I'm not trying to get them to a high school level or even a sixth grade level. I just need them to know the very, very basics and then they can do whatever they want after that.

I had a young recruit the other day... again, we go around and talk to... any given day of the week we have 34,000 Afghans in our training programs. I mean, to show you the magnitude of this training effort. When we started we had about 9,000. We're up to 34,000. We have 70 training centres around this country.

And as I move around every week to some of our different training centres, and talk to these different soldiers and policemen that are going through our training, you know, I had this one solider just a couple of weeks ago say, under the Taliban they didn't teach me how to read and write because they wanted to keep me in the dark, but my army, and he's referring to his Afghan army, giving them full credit for this, which is great, he said, but my army is teaching me to read and write so that I can see the light and make my own decisions.

Now to me that was remarkable. This is an uneducated man that we've now brought to a first grade level, who's saying today I can see the light. I can make my own decisions.

And he's exactly right, because now he can count his month to know if he properly gets paid. He can read an inventory sheet to see if he's been issued the right equipment. He can write a basic report about what he saw wherever he was working. Whereas before he could not do that in November of 2009. Nor was there ever any hope or opportunity that would ever change.

Today that's all different and these young recruits, like I said, if you look those that we have trained and have in training, it's over a 120,000 today. I mean, it's an incredible amount of numbers, and it's just growing every day. The program is continuing to expand. It will have a second and third order effect in Afghanistan that we have not even begun to imagine.

There's this government official, Dr. Ashraf Ghani, who I meet with on a regular basis, and he's a very close confident of the president's and Ashraf Ghani was telling me the other day when we were walking him through, because he likes us to keep him updated on what we're doing in the training effort, and he said, he goes, you know, he said, Bill, this literally transformed my country. It wasn't the hardware. It wasn't the amount of equipment we were buying, it wasn't the increase in weapons qualification we were doing, it was the literacy. And he looked at me and he said, this will transform my country.

And I just... I thought, my gosh, he's probably right. It will have a second and third order effect. We're doing it just to professionalize the police and army, but it will have an enormous impact on the country of Afghanistan long term given these young men and some women hope and opportunity they never had before.

OANA LUNGESCU: Anna.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to take so long.

Q: Thank you. Some very quick questions. The first one is what's the retention rate right now in the Afghan forces, and if it's very different for the police and the army? The second, if I may, very quick, is we have about 1,300 trainers, if I got it right, from the NATO today. To sustain and even accelerate this training process as we want to do, how many extra trainers do we need on a sustainable basis as well? And the third, if I may, is, with the relationship with the EU I understand that the EUPOL is more training high level officials, whether it's you're training more the base, the big wide base. So how are they both going to mix? Particularly with your idea that the Afghans have to be in the lead already from 2012? In the training as well. Thank you.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: I won't get so passionate on this answer. I'll be much quicker. On EU training, obviously we're talking about the European Police, EUPOL, the European police force there, with Jukka as the head of mission, works very, very closely with us. As we say, we work in a complementary manner. They bring some very unique, special skill sets that are not resident necessarily within our trainers.

And so what the EUPOL has agreed, and we've worked collaboratively on this, is they take the mid-grade level police training, and they're, in fact, running today, provincial police chief seminars and district police chief seminars. They're going to be standing up a police staff college, again, from mid-grade level leaders. And so the expertise EUPOL brings is exactly that, to do more the mid-level grade training, which again, in any one of our police forces and our nations we would have continuing development and education of our policemen, or policewomen, over time.

Well, that's what EUPOL's now going to do for Afghanistan. And again, I know their mission right now is only out to the end of 2013. One of the things I did say to the Parliamentary Security Committee yesterday at the European Union is when that time comes I hope they will remain with us and a part of the effort because we're a great team together now in Afghanistan and I'd like to see it continued.

As far as the number of trainers required, again, many of you may know I'm a dual-hatted commander. I'm the NATO Training Mission Commander, but I'm also an American commander for the Combined Security Transition Command of Afghanistan. When you take our two organizations, which we've melded together, on the ground today we have about 7,000 trainers. One thousands two hundred of those are Afghans that we employ, our teachers. They're part of our training effort. They're a key part of what we're trying to accomplish. And then I have a lot of other nations that have contributed bilaterally with the United States and so we all work together as one team doing the training mission.

So I'm actually very encouraged too by the ongoing dialogue today.

I see the training mission lasting for many years. We have established, as we looked at starting to train the Afghans to become the primary trainers, there will be a point sometime in 2013, probably the summer of 2013 is our best estimate right now, where we believe that the number of NATO trainers that we have will no longer be required at that level and there'll be some downward trend that will start occurring in their numbers as the Afghans take more of the lead.

And that's real important to know, because this is not a forever kind of mission. We see oh these next two years being the most critical as we lift up their capabilities, so they can become the primary trainers and sometime around the summer of 2013 we call that the tipping point where there will be more Afghans in the lead in training than NATO trainers and our numbers will start to do some sort of general decline. Not precipitous, but general decline and we'll make evaluations when we get there of just how faster and how many.

But again, we're going to be there for many more years after that in some level helping them as they do systems development and... because that's a lot more challenging task and that will take a little longer period of time.

As far as attrition goes in September when I talked to some of you in this room one of the things we looked at specifically was the Afghan National Civil Order Police. They're a gendarme-like police force, and I think many of you recall their attrition rate at that time was when we stood up the command was in excess of 10 percent. Excess of ten percent means we were declining in strength in the Afghan National Civil Order Police. They're ANCOP-like force. There was about 3,200 of them at that time that were in the force and we weren't growing, we were actually declining because the attrition was just astronomically high.

This past month the attrition rate in the Afghan National Civil Order Police, ANCOP, was down to 3.4 percent. So we have literally, in 15 months, gone from 10-point-about-3 percent down to 3.4 percent. Now that's still too high for long-term sustainment, but what we found, which was very interesting, it wasn't prevalent across the whole force. There's four major units called brigades in ANCOP and three of those brigades had very acceptable levels of attrition and one was very high, it was spiked at over eight percent. And that skewed the overall numbers to about three percent. And what we attribute that to now is leadership.

And, again, that wasn't our challenge initially. We had everything from pay problems, equipping problems, training problems, literacy problems when first stood the command up. Now we're able to start focusing on leadership and what's great by having that now is that it as we narrow down and keep addressing each of these issues as the Minister of Interior is very concerned, he recently changed out one of these four subordinate commanders, brigade commanders and he's now looking at perhaps doing the other one, that has this high attrition. Because it becomes a leadership issue, just like it would any other organization.

Good leaders motivate their people to wanting to continue to serve and be a part of the organization. Poor leaders don't take care of them, don't ensure they have the right facilities and care and food and pay and when that occurs you need to remove that one. And the Minister of the Interior has made some very deliberate moves over the last six or eight months looking at leadership and we think he'll continue doing that.

Q: (Inaudible...) is this rate per month or year, this 3.4?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: It's... that's good, it's per month. So annualized then you would have had a 120 percent attrition in ANCOP in November of 2009. That's what I mean, it was declining in strength. I mean, it was a broken organization that we inherited and our first question was, how do we fix this? And we need to fix it fast. Today, I can tell you that the ANCOP strength is just over 7,200 people. We have 3,000 more in training and we've been able to get the attrition down to acceptable levels in three of the four brigades and once we fix that last brigade, which I think really is just a leadership issue, I think we're going even see a really incredible story of a turnaround of a critical organization for the police over a 15-16 month period.

OANA LUNGESCU: Right. We've got lots more questions. Three questions on the third row. Brooks, Slobo, then David. And then we'll go higher.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defense. Three short questions, just to clarify what Ana was pressing about. What is the ANA's monthly attrition rate, if there is one? In percentage terms. No ANP, ANA. Second, what portion, if any, of the ISAF 1,300 trainers that you mentioned at the very beginning of your presentation, which I assumed is how many you have now, are active military trainers versus private sector? Maybe there are none. And third, training won't do any good without adequate equipment levels. ISAF nations have been uneven in this, in their donations. In your view, what is the most important kit the ANA still needs to assume the lead role by 2014? Thank you.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Currently the ANA attrition has remained somewhat fairly consistent over the last three years on an annualized basis. And you know, I should pull up the exact number...

Today the monthly attrition in the ANA is 2.7 percent. That's monthly, which means, if annualized that's about 32 percent. That's the current attrition in the Afghan National Army. And again, as we look at it you can actually take it all the way down to the particular battalions, or they call Kandaks, and what we find is there's particular ones that are extremely high and others that are actually down at 1.8 percent, 1.6 percent. And, again, we attribute most of that to leadership.

You know, when we first stood up the command one of our major shortfalls was leaders. You know, we said we had a leadership gap and so we've made leader development one of our top priorities in this command. And it's going to take us till about the end of this year, 2011, around December of 2011, to narrow, to help reduce that leadership gap that currently exists in the army and also in some of the police forces. But we have the programs in place, we have the trainers on site, and it takes about six months or longer to train a leader and their basic skill set so it just takes time. But we will close that leadership gap by the end of this year, setting the conditions to where then that should not be the excuse or the challenge that we think we find out there.

Within the ANP the overall attrition level is much lower. It's 1.9 percent across the police force, if you take all the different kinds and lump them together. Obviously ANCOP, as we just talked is about 3.4 percent, but the uniform police, the one that's out there in the communities and the districts and the provinces is down to about 1.4 percent. So when you combine them together it's about a 1.9 percent overall attrition which is obviously very manageable, although we want to also continue trying to bring that down just a little lower too.

As far as the percentage of the 1,300 trainers, they're all either active military, or actual police. Like yesterday 12 more Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up and became part of NATO Training Mission, so they're uniform personnel, either military or police, of those 1,300.

And as far as the ANA kit, what else could they use, I would tell you is that we are able to, right now, actually procure and issue to them those types of equipment that they need in order to deal with the level of insurgency that currently exists inside of Afghanistan for the Afghan National Army. The one piece of kit that we are still looking at, but are working through the system is perhaps buying some sort of armoured response vehicle that each corps, there's six corps, could have in order to respond rapidly to threats that exist within their core area. So we are looking at that with the Minister of Defence. He's kind of giving us his requirements and, again, if additional growth is approved by the international community, that would be something, again, that we would procure and provide for his force.

OANA LUNGESCU: Slobo.

Q: I'm sorry...

OANA LUNGESCU: Introduce yourself.

Q: Oh, Slobo Lekic from the Associated Press. According to your figures you're losing about 30 percent of security personnel every year, and how do you expect to reach this number of 305,000 if you're losing the equivalent of about 80,000 a year? At that level?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: We, in fact, have built, and are still building, enough throughput capacity... we're building enough throughput capacity within Afghanistan. We pretty much have it all built now for the army and are still building it for the police, that enable us to, in fact, not only continue to grow, but also replenish any attrition that takes place.

The key, obviously, longer term, is to help them continue to reduce the levels of attrition. Again, I go back to whereas attrition in November of '09 was brought on by many multiple different factors, we really are starting to neck it down and see it's more of a leadership issue than anything else and our leader development program's therefore taking on greater importance; i.e. what we're doing with EUPOL, like in the police force where they're working with the mid-grade level leaders and we're working with the initial entry-level leaders, and then within the army we're doing it across all sectors, having also now put into place mid-grade level officer developmental programs. Not yet in the full numbers we want, but we're moving that way, and by this summer we'll have that fully implemented to enable us to do more leader development of the mid-grade level leaders.

Q: Sorry, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. Just to clarify this issue on attrition, can you give us comparable overall statistics from the beginning of the period you're talking about from I guess September 2009 to now to give us an idea of what's happened overall?

Also, on attrition, at what stage are the dropouts taking place? I mean, how well trained are the people who are dropping out? And I've got one more question. I need to scroll up. Excuse me a minute.

We're talking about a target figure of 306,000 for October and your graph has a projection for 2012 to be determined. When is the decision going to be taken on whether we go past 306,000? And so you have any estimate... is there any estimate that exists for an optimal target strength? And if there is, do you expect any problems from neighbours, particularly Pakistan, over the sizes of the Afghan security forces?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: As far as the decision on growth, what we do know at this point is the president of Afghanistan has made a request to the international community, reinforced by both the Minister of Defence and Interior, that they would like to grow the force to 378,000. That's police and army combined, and air force. But the international community has not yet made a decision on what growth they will approve, if any at all, beyond the 305,000. And I'll just... we're on track to make the 305,000 by this October. We will achieve that goal. That is within the realm of what is achievable. If there's additional growth then obviously we would continue leaving all of our recruiting, induction and development programs in place to achieve whatever the international community decides.

Tentatively there is a session scheduled for mid-March where the international community is coming together to have that discussion and make that decision. Last year they made it in January where they agreed to go to 305,000. But, again, the president of Afghanistan's request is 378 and again, we're waiting for the international community to give us the direction through SHAPE, as to what levels we're going to continue to support, if any at all, in further growth.

As far as the attrition, in November of '09 about half of the attrition occurred in the training base. We had some real challenges in the training base of people leaving then. And, again, we attributed that to the fact that we just didn't have enough trainers. We didn't have enough leadership. Well, we were able to fix that, and today less than two percent of all attrition occurs in the training base.

So we went from what was about half the attrition at the training base down to less than two percent. So in all of our training facilities, we have 34,000 today in training, police and army and air together, it's less than two percent. The other attrition obviously all occurs out in the field at force. So if that helps a little on where the attrition actually occurs today.

And as far as the comparative figures, I'll get those... we do have those. They're readily available. I just don't have... and I don't know if the team... can you pull it up, Shawn?

SHAWN STROUD: Yes sir, we'll get it, we'll get it.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: All, right Shawn Stroud will get you those. And, again, I would stress to anybody here, everything we do is a 100 percent unclassified. There's no classified data in our organization when it comes to dealing with numbers, facts, figures, and our feeling is we need to be a 100 percent transparent to the international community who are committing their sons and daughters, their military and their police and some civilians and their monetary to assist us in this effort. So we'll be glad to provide that data, and we do maintain it all, so it's readily available. We'll get that for you.

Q: (Inaudible...). You have to clarify for us when you say percent (inaudible) if it's annual or monthly.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: I'm sorry. The two percent attrition right now, annualized, occurs in the training base. Yeah. And in other words almost... in other words, there's really almost nobody that leaves out of the training base anymore. And I think that's because we have a pretty good screening process before we bring them in. We're about ten, so we don't count that ten percent because they never are allowed to even come into the training base.

OANA LUNGESCU: We have about three minutes left, I think, and I've got three questions of people who have had their hands up for a very long time. Okay, Ricardo there, and then Nagayo. Okay.

Q: Martinez de Rituerto, with El País. Good morning, General. We met last spring in your headquarters in Kabul.

So to your training attrition, that means that almost everybody that is leaving, that are huge numbers, are people that have leaving with military information. And they can misbehave depending on their previous background. Is not too risky?

And a second question, in my visit back then there was this debate about the hue, the ethnical composition of the army with the Pashtun not joining. How is right now the situation? Thank you.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: What I would telecommunications you is that the last three months have seen the highest intake of southern Pashtuns into the army that we've ever achieved since the NATO Training Mission has existed and it's because the Minister of Defence has six special recruiting teams that he's permanently put down into the southern area of Afghanistan that do nothing but recruit southern Pashtuns. And over the last three months the number has slightly gone up every month. So it's on an upward trend. We're not yet where we need to be, but what we do know is 3.4 percent, 3.6 percent of last month's recruits that came into the army were southern Pashtuns. If you recall it used to be as low as less than one percent.

So it's moving in the right direction. The Minister of Defence has put the right programs in place. Collectively we've established gaols that we want to achieve and we're not there yet where we want to get to, but it is clearly doing the right thing for the first time since I've been there in terms of bringing more southern Pashtuns.

As you know, the population of Afghanistan probably has about 44 percent Pashtuns. The army does have about 44 percent Pashtuns in the army. But they're Pashtuns that were mostly from the north, the east and the west. So we're specifically talking about recruiting southern Pashtuns.

And, again, I don't know whether it's because the operational efforts are moving forward down in the south and the people now are willing to serve in the army, or what it is. I attribute it to these recruiting teams, though, personally, these six teams that the Minister of Defence put in place down there. So I think that is helping tremendously in getting at that issue.

And then your other question was on the attrition. What I would tell you again, again, we can share the data with you, but we look at attrition all the way down to individual clients—these are 600 to 800 organizations—and ask ourselves is there a trend, is it across the whole army or is it in specific units and specific locations? And what we do know, the attrition occurs in specific units, in specific locations. And what we do know, the attrition occurs in specific units, in specific locations. It's not a trend across the army.

And so when these people do attrit it's not normally the... we now attribute it mostly to they're either in a very difficult fighting area where they've been continuously engaged, because it is in the southern areas that we have most of the attrition in select units down there, and so when we go in and dig further, a lot of times we find that has specifically to do with leadership. And when we do, then we sit down with the Minister of Defence and the Ground Force Commander and the Chief of the General Staff of the army and have a dialogue and discussion about what actions do they want to take now to specifically address that.

So it's not men who are leaving perhaps because they don't want to continue serving, but they don't... they either are continuously engaged in insurgent operations and not really getting a break, or their leadership is not properly taking care of them. But we have not found it to... those are the two predominant factors out there.

Q: Thank you, General. Peter Spiegel, with the Financial Times. You've been quite critical today of your predecessor organization that you inherited when you arrived a year and a half ago. Can you address a couple of points that the CSTC-A organization, your predecessor had a couple of reasons why he felt both on size and speed that he didn't think... he sort of disagreed with your viewpoint on this. The size issue was General Wardak always seems to want doubling the size of the force. Is that sustainable, particularly from a budgetary point of view? Can you address that issue. If you get up to even 305 or 306 or 378, is that sustainable for an Afghan government that has very limited natural resources?

On the speed issue, his argument was this mid-level officer corps, '03, '04, '05, you addressed it a bit in a previous question, six months though to create a captain equivalent to a major equivalent. Is that really enough time to create that mid-level officer corps, so they can be a company or battalion commander going forward? Thank you.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: First of all, let me be real clear, I am not being critical of the previous organization. What I would tell you we found was an organization that was underresourced, undermanned and undersupproted. You know, you had some people doing the absolute very best they could. When I walked in and took over the organization I was told to take another ten percent cut in my organization and I went back to General McChrystal and said we can't do that. We don't even have enough people to do the mission we need to do today, much less take a further reduction in our overall strength.

We literally went, like I said, from on the ground of 30 NATO trainers, the entire organization when we first stood up, maybe had 1,200 people counting all the bilateral contributions too through CSTC-A and the first thing the Secretary of Defence did in January was give me 800 additional trainers from the United States in order to infuse us right away with more trainers.

You can't do a mission without the proper resources. Monetarily they had money, but they didn't have what the most critical thing of all is, and that's people.

And so we have been fortunate, and as I told you, we went from 30 NATO trainers to 1,300 NATO trainers. We went from about 1,200 American trainers on the bilateral basis to 2,700 American bilateral trainers. I mean, there was just a significant uplift in giving us the resources to get after and so what was necessary in this mission.

So I am not being critical. They were underresourced. They were not given the people that were necessary to do the mission they were being asked to do. And I wrote a classified memo December 2009 stating that given the resourcing we had the mission was not able to be accomplished. And when that went up to the chain of command, like I said, there was immediate response. We were given additional trainers and they've continued to grow in numbers since then. Because that is what's key, is people. It's not hardware, it's people that can, in fact, instil an ethos of professionalism and leadership within the police and army.

So I just want to state that the next thing was we also now, because we have more trainers, we tripled and quadrupled the amount of leader development programs. When we took over you could only produce about 2,000 non-commissioned officers, mid-grade level leaders, on an annual basis in the army. Well, that's going to be absolutely insufficient.

We have a chart, I don't know if you can throw it up there. It's one of the data points that we use to show... if you look on the far left there as you're looking at it, there is about 1,950 was their throughput capacity for non-commissioned officers. We're about to reach 16,000. So, again, if you're not producing enough leaders then you're going to have an organization that is leaderless and that's going to lead to attrition, loss of equipment and everything else.

And so we were able, as we were given more resources of people, you know, as General Petraeus calls it, we finally were getting the inputs right and that`s in having the people necessary to do this mission, which enables us now to moving towards producing 16,000 non-commissioned officers in our throughput now, which is incredibly different and will make an enormous difference out there in the fielded force.

As far as the size and budget goes, again, the international community has made the decision to grow to 305,000. What we do want to do is produce enough security force within Afghanistan that they can handle the threat, so we can reduce the combat forces that the coalition forces have here. You know, everybody's talked about different timelines, but what I do know, until we finish growing the Afghan National Security Force, as we continue to develop them, they will be able to more and more take on the responsibility for the security of their own country, which is our ultimate goal. Not only do you want them to take on that security responsibility, you want them to be able to sustain and endure and replenish themselves. Again, that's part of what we're doing, so that becomes an enduring capability, and not something that will falter and fail shortly thereafter coalition forces reduce their overall presence inside of Afghanistan.

As far as the budget goes, I think most people recognize that currently the police and army forces that we are building, are such that the Afghan national budget cannot sustain it without international support. We recognize that. The alternative is to leave coalition force presence there for a much longer time, and I think all of us in the international community would like to see Afghans, who want to do it themselves, be responsible for their own security in their own country, and be able to reduce the levels of coalition combat forces that are there to a much lower level.

So, for us, the international community, we do, in fact, want to build up their capacity and their capability to a level where they can handle this and we can start reducing the presence of coalition forces there. And with time, as the level of violence goes down, there are enormous opportunities for business development inside of Afghanistan, where their GDP could, in fact, increase and they could, you know, if you read all the international reports on the potential mineral wealth and other assets that exist in that country, where they could more than handle the cost of their security forces themselves.

OANA LUNGESCU: Nagayo, do you still have your question?

Q: Okay.

OANA LUNGESCU: Very quickly.

Q: Thank you. (Inaudible...) from Japanese media. General, questions about trained leaders, 500 percent increased on the screen. Are these people allocated all over mobile way or are they rather static to the regions? I'm asking about if there are any considerations on the ratio of the ethnic groups?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: As far as the ratio of the ethnic groups, I can tell you that we look at ethnicity proportionality all the way down to battalion Kandaks, 600-800-man organizational level and within ANCOP we look at all the way down to the company, 120-person level, to ensure an ethnic proportionality exists.

It is important. As you're trying to build a national force within the police and the army, and when I say within the police, the local police are locally recruited and operate locally, but the national police, the ANCOP, the Afghan National Civil Order Police are nationally recruited and employed nationally. It's very important that there is an ethnical balance proportional to generally what their country's representation is in those forces, and we work very diligently. We look at it every single month. The Minister of Interior and I personally review their ethnicity breakout of their key elements every month, as I do with the Minister of Defence. I mean it's that important to both of us that that maintains a balance so that it's a truly representative national force.

Many Afghans would tell you that this is probably the one unifying aspect for their country that could bring their nation together, is their army, because the army is so ethnically balanced and representative of their country. A great example of this is their National Military Academy of Afghanistan. For any of you who are interested, next month we'll bring in their next class of 600 students. Over this last ten months they've gone out and nationally recruited, found people, brought them in, 6,700 recruits came in who were qualified, took a test, physical, mental and academic test, testing for several days, and out of that 600 were picked. And that will be the next group that enters the National Military Academy—it's a four-year academic program in Afghanistan—to be their next second lieutenants in their army at the end of four years. A proportion of them will go to the air force and the police, but the majority of them will go to the army.

But when you look at that, what we did is not only did we do it ethnically balanced, we did it by district too. So literally if you take a map of Afghanistan and you look at where these 600 are from you'll see pins in this map as we all sat there and did it with each and every individual person of the 600 so that this is the most ethnically represented and provincially represented group of people coming together for the next four years to train together to serve the country of Afghanistan that's ever been done.

We've had ethnic balance in the past. We now even did it by representation throughout the country too, because, again, we're trying to help to build a nationalistic army that represents the people and not a particular ethnical group.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, General. We've overrun by almost a quarter of an hour, so obviously a lot of interest in the training of the National Afghan Army and Police, and the General will be very happy to welcome you back whenever you can, because obviously there's a lot of interest. Many thanks.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: I'll tell you, you're all welcome to come to Afghanistan. And I'll take you out to any of the training facilities and we'll show you whatever you want to see, so if you have the opportunity to come, especially through what SHAPE sets up and organizes, we would more than welcome you and we'd love to take you and show you around and let you ask your own questions to the Afghans themselves.

Thank you very much.

Last updated: 24-Feb-2011 09:55

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