Press briefing by the Commander of the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome also to those watching on line. This morning we welcome Lieutenant General William Caldwell, Commander of NATO's Training Mission in Afghanistan, NTM-A.
General Caldwell's been in charge of NATO's Training Mission since it started in November 2009, so we're looking forward to the second anniversary very soon and we're very happy to have him here today because Lieutenant General Caldwell, of course, can offer a unique perspective on the achievements and challenges of training the Afghan National Security Forces.
Yesterday Lieutenant General Caldwell briefed the North Atlantic Council, the Military Committee and as well the Political and Security Committee and the EU Council, the PSC, so today we're very happy that he's here to brief the media.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL (Commander of the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan): Well, thank you, Oana. And thanks all of you all today for taking the time to come here. I know everybody has busy schedules and we appreciate this opportunity before we head back this afternoon to Afghanistan.
Before I take your questions I thought I'd just give you a couple of points of context that might be useful. Obviously, as she said, I've been on the ground there now for almost two years. In fact, just a couple of days away from being two years, so I do have a unique perspective of having watched the evolution of what has occurred on the ground inside that country over this time period.
As you know two years ago NATO leadership did make the decision to stand up the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan and in doing that when they did they really did take the time to give us the necessary resources we needed to get at this particular mission.
They also came forward with the right kind of strategy, that was essential, put in place the right organization and then they also gave us what really is the most important, the people with the right skill sets that are essential to do what we're being asked to do, as we have worked very diligently with our Afghan counterparts to build a capable army, an air force and a police force there inside of Afghanistan.
Reflecting back on that decision, when we did stand up the training mission, what I'll tell you that I think has been very exciting to watch has been the tremendous progress that the Afghan Security Force has made over these last two years. The second thing that has been very paramount in our mind is the fact that there's been a tremendous series of partnerships that have been established. Partnerships not just with us and with the Afghans from NATO, but within the international community. Because this truly has been an international effort. It's not been a NATO effort by itself, but rather one in which we partnered with many different organizations.
As Oana said, I went and talked to the EU Political and Security Committee yesterday, specifically to address to them just how critical EUPOL has been in this mission working with us in a very complementary manner inside of Afghanistan.
And then, of course, watching the growing professionalization of this security forces over this time period.
When I talk about that one of the things I'll tell you about the growth, last night I did receive the official numbers back from my team in Afghanistan and as you all know, the objective was by 31 October, October 31st of this year, that the growth would be at 305.6 thousand inside the army and the police. That was achieved officially yesterday. So in fact, they did make their growth objectives for this year, just a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. So they're at 305.6 thousand. In fact, they're just a little over that now, by the data that's coming in a couple of thousand over, and which means now the next objective that the international community has set for them is October 31st of next year to bet at 352,000 and so we're already about 2,000 into that number moving towards that objective.
I'll also tell you that the number of recruits that are coming in has been really phenomenal over these last two years. In September of 2009 about 800 young men made the decision to join their army. This past month we almost turned away twice as many as that that wanted to join because of the screening process that's now used, a very deliberate methodical one, looking at many factors, but in a short period of two years we went from maybe 800 young men trying to join, is what it was in the September of '09, to last month where we had just about 8,000 that wanted to join and we turned away, which was a little higher than normal, but about 1,600, saying they were unacceptable or unsuitable for service in the Afghan Army, while still matriculating in about 6,400.
There has been a tremendous surge. You know, we talked last time I was here about the surge that most people heard about when we do really call it the Afghan surge. They literally have almost doubled this force in the last two years. There's been a growth, an additional new growth of 114,000 police, army and some air force over these last two years. A phenomenal growth when you think about that.
To put that in perspective, that's larger than some European militaries today that we grew just in the last two years working with our Afghan counterparts.
What's also important is that we've really established internationally recognized and certified programs of instruction. October 1st of this year we implemented the new eight-week police training sprogram. Went from six weeks to eight weeks. And implementing that new eight-week program, it was not something decided by NATO training mission. Rather, it was something that the international community, collectively together, it was the European Union Police, the Germany Police Project Team, it was NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, it was some NGOs and the Ministry of Interior, who collectively sat down and worked up these two additional weeks of training that would be added in and then agreed that this we all, everybody in Afghanistan will train to the same standard the police inside of Afghanistan.
So when we can do that kind of standardization across the country, amongst the international community, that the Afghans approve, that really does have a tremendous uplift in what occurs. And two of the key things that were added in, decisions made many months ago, was to increase the number of human rights training that's now embedded within more of the police training during their basic now eight weeks of training. We went from about 14 hours to up to 32 hours.
So not only did the Minister of Interior double it, he added even some more. And also more on increased rule of law, transparency and accountability too.
As far as equipment goes, we have spent a considerable amount of time asking ourselves is this equipment, we use what we call the CAS principle, C-A-S. Is it capable... is it a capability that the Afghans need? Not that they necessarily want, but is it what they need? And if it is then it's what the international community should consider to get for them.
We then ask, is it something that's affordable? Not affordable by asking our international community, but is it affordable by the Afghans? Is it something they are going to be able to afford, with some international support in the future to be able to procure and obtain themselves?
And then the last one is, sustainability. Not can we sustain it, or can contractors sustain it, but can we take and develop the human capital inside of Afghanistan so that this equipment, this infrastructure we're giving them be such that they can sustain it in the long term. Not that they could right now today, but can we give them that capability over the next few years?
So all of the equipment, the CAS, that we've adhered to, is starting to really have an impact on what we, in fact, are procuring today, the standards that we are building to today, and we have made a lot of adjustments over this last year while using that as our guiding principle.
I tell you, within leader development we said it before, it still is our number one priority. Has been since November of 2009. We recognize that if we have the right leaders we can really take on any challenges that are out there. But leaders take time and they take effort to develop, and so we've continued to build more capacity inside of Afghanistan to train leaders. Over the last two years we have trained just almost 50,000 officers and non-commission officers for the army, the police and the air force. I mean, that's a phenomenal growth in leaders.
Part of that we've had to also do by going outside of Afghanistan and using some training facilities outside of Afghanistan to give us initial uplift, but the intent is within two years there'll be no need to do that anymore and there'll be 100 percent all done inside of Afghanistan over the long term.
Education, we recognize that we're dealing with what is termed in Afghanistan the lost generation. These young men and women who never had the opportunity to go to school and so we have really taken on head-on our literacy training program. Today we employ just over 3,000 Afghan teachers, full-time, as part of NATO Training Mission. To date we've trained, educated I should say really, not trained, but educated, just over a 134,000 young men, a couple of women, inside of Afghanistan, who were completely illiterate and have brought them to sublevel of literacy. I mean, that's a phenomenal undertaking that we started about 18 months ago and it just keeps ramping up as we go.
So 134,000 who were illiterate now have some level of literacy. And in addition to that, today in Afghanistan we have 100,000 more in training. Now this is a force of only about 300 today of 307,000 as of the statistics last night, so 134,000 have been given some level of literacy and out of a 100,000 some of those included in that number, are still in either continuing education courses or they're new recruits going through literacy training.
So it's absolutely mandatory that every single man and woman coming into the army, the police and the air force, must attend mandatory literacy training and be brought up to some level of education to give them some capacity to operate rather than remain illiterate, which is what you find in about 75 percent of the country of Afghanistan.
And I think you know our statistics show us, because we do do entry level testing, that only 18 percent of the new recruits coming in, have any level of literacy. Only 18 percent.
As far as pay goes, we did take on pay, working with the international community. We've now established pay parity between the army and the police. So if you're a brand new patrolman or brand new soldier, you make the same level of pay in both of those forces. And then the incremental amounts pretty much match too. And it's an open pay system, very transparent, very open. We've translated it into the Dari and Pashto. All of our advisors who work out there constantly ask soldiers how much they got paid that month so that we can help all monitor and track because it's a very clear, definitive pay tables now that are out there.
But again, it's the international community that made that decision using the Law and Order Trust Fund under UNAMA to pay the police and then of course, under NATO Training Mission, to pay the army.
And what I'll tell you, is that to have done what we have done it really did take NATO to do this. If any individual nation had made the decision to try to do this by themselves, as perhaps was happening before November '09, I don't think they could have done it. Truly it was a NATO effort. We started with only two nations two years ago that were part of NATO Training Mission. Today we have 37 nations. We started with 30 trainers as part of NATO Training Mission two years ago. Today we have 1,800 NATO trainers, with an additional 500 almost that have been pledged or that are inbound over the next six months to join our effort.
In November of '09 when I turned around and asked, okay, who is my police advisor? I was told I had one professional police officer in the entire NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan in November of 2009. Today there's 500... just over 525. These are civilian police who have voluntarily decided to serve in Afghanistan whether they're Royal Canadian Mounties, Australian Federal Police, bobbies out of London, England, the European Gendarmerie Force, but these are true police professionals, just over 525 of them today, and they're making a significant difference in how we get at and help with the police training.
And it's because of these partnerships we really have been able to take on the professionalization of this police and army. In the last 12 months we did finally open up the last of the 12 specialty schools that we really do need in order to give the army and the police those speciality skills they need, such as human resources, maintenance, logistics, and those kind of skill sets that are absolutely essential for any kind of enduring police force or army.
But again, the last school just opened up in May of this year, so they've just all now come on line. We have sufficient number of trainers in all those courses and we're starting now to move the Afghans through those training programs.
It is true that we still are challenged by the educational standards that we kind of need in these schools, so many of them do have anywhere from one to three months up front of full-time education before they can enter into and go through the training course, because it does require, in many cases, about a fifth, sixth grade level of education to be able to comprehend and assimilate the information that's associated with logistics and maintenance and human resources and those type skills.
But fortunately for us, the Afghans actually have an incredible desire to be educated. These young men, and some of these women, actually look... that's their most favourite topic they take, and so there's not been a challenge at all when we offer them this opportunity.
We've also started transitioning now. Transitioning trainers. Whereas we walked in in November of '09 and found almost all the training being done by contractors, we wanted it to be done by NATO trainers, people who were professionals in their skill sets, who wore a uniform, either a civilian police uniform or military uniform. And we have been very fortunate over the last two years to receive more and more trainers that enabled us to do that.
And now we're starting the next transition and that transition is putting the Afghans now in the lead for training. And that's very, very important. Our goal is that by December of 2012, about 16 months from now, Afghans will be in the lead for all basic training inside of Afghanistan for the police and the army. Today we have assigned into authorized training billet instructors about 3,100 Afghans. We'll eventually raise that to 5,000. The billets are there, we just need to find the right qualified people to put in those positions. And then once they get there we put them through a very deliberate certification process. Part of that involves going back to school a little bit, to raise their educational levels, but we put them through a very deliberate certification process.
Of the 3,100 assigned today about half of those, about 1,500 have actually gone through and been certified as trainers and are now starting to lead training inside of Afghanistan in lieu of NATO trainers doing it.
But, again, our goal is that by December of '12 they will have the lead for all the basic training inside of Afghanistan, then enabling us as the NATO Training Mission to shift our priority and start focusing more on developing the systems and institutions and helping the Afghans there a lot more in that area, while they do the basic level of training that will now be indigenous and that they'll have forever inside of Afghanistan.
We've also been able to stand up their training and education commands within the army and the police, their logistics commands, the recruiting commands. Those things, again, that give them an enduring long-term capacity.
I guess I'll just conclude by saying, you know, if I look back over these two years I will tell you that November of 2009 there really were some real reasons to be sceptical about what was going on inside of Afghanistan. We saw it first hand when we stood up this training mission.
But today what I'll tell you is you will find a security force that is being well trained, that is being properly equipped, where leaders now are being identified and put through a rigorous training program. We now, for the first time, are reaching the necessary vocational or specialty skills that these forces will need. And we're bringing of the institutions and systems, like the logistics system and the maintenance system, not developed yet, but coming on line, that will be critical to the long-term sustainability of these two forces.
I am actually very optimistic about the possibilities now of what can occur inside of Afghanistan because I've seen it first hand, the progress that has occurred over these last two years. I do recognize that there still will be some challenges and there still will be some difficult days ahead. But I'm also very encouraged by the growth and the development that I've seen and therefore know that with this new breed of leaders that we're starting to bring on, that there really is some real hope, real reason that the Afghans can be hopeful about what the future holds for them.
We really are starting to see a security force there that is one that understands that they are there to protect and serve and not to be served themselves. And so with that what I'd like to do is take whatever questions you all may have.
OANA LUNGESCU: And I'd be grateful if you could put your mobiles on silent, please, and also introduce yourselves. We'll start with German Television at the back.
Q: My name is Kai Niklasch. I'm from German Television ZDF. Could you give us some idea how the payment for the Security Forces in Afghanistan are related to the average income in Afghanistan, so how much do they get so that we have an idea how much that is?
And for how many years is that guaranteed? What does the international community plan? Is it paid for the next five or ten years, or what are the plans?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: What do I tell you is that what we've done is we've been able to with the international community to bring their (inaudible), what we call (inaudible), a living wage. In November of 2009 a policeman, a basic police, patrolman, made one half the pay of an army private. So when people would say to me, well, you know, they're illiterate, they're not well-trained, they're corrupt, my answer almost was well, yes, we've sort of set those conditions as the international community that almost lead them to that path.
Today they do make a living wage, army and police. It's about... I could get my team to pull up exact pay (inaudible) which I'll be glad to provide to you, but it's about $170, U.S. dollars if you don't mind me using that, as a starting monthly wage. And then based on your time in service, your pay can go up. Every three years you get a pay increment and then with promotions you get a pay increment.
If you're serving in a hazardous duty area, an area where there's a lot of ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, like down in Kandahar, Helmand area, or out in the east, you then also draw an additional monthly stipend for being in an intensified combat area. Both police and army draw that.
And then if you're part of a national expeditionary force, you draw an additional incentive pay for that. So there's incentives that are added on to this base pay that they make in the force.
And then as we bring on more specialty skills, like pilots, explosive ordinance disposal people, they'll receive some sort of specialty pay. Again, each of these to recognize and to retain these special skill sets that they've received in their force.
So they start about $170 U.S. dollars a month and then have their specialty pays and enhancements, longevity pay and promotions on top of that. So they've actually got a fairly good living wage now that they make.
The international community that pays for their police salaries is done through LOFTA. UNAMA handles that. We work very closely with them. We, really the whole international community does. We have monthly meetings and we do find that today about 40 percent of the LOFTA pay is provided by the country of Japan. They're a very large contributor to that effort in helping pay for the police salaries inside of Afghanistan
But there has been no inclination by any of the nations that they have any intention other than to continue helping with that pay. There are requirements for the government of Afghanistan to add more over time to pay for it themselves. And there's percentages that UNAMA has set that the international community all concurs with, so that there's this expectation that they'll assume more as they have the gross domestic product, the ability to pay for more themselves, so they don't become dependent forever on the international community.
Within the army the pay is provided right now 100 percent by the United States. They pay for all the army pay. And right now the budget that we have projected this year and next and for the next several years, there's more than sufficient funding in there to continue with the pay for that too.
OANA LUNGESCU: Jane's.
Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence Weekly. I have two related questions, both about the air force. Afghanistan is a very big mountainous country and poor roads, which demands air surveillance, ISTAR and air support, if needed against the Taliban once transition has taken place.
I see here you're going to generate forces of 8,000 by November 2012. My question, where does training stand on the Afghan Air Force. That's a training of an order of magnitude altogether different than for foot soldiers. What's the timing on that?
And secondly, does the international... to what extent does the international trust fund or the U.S. trust fund fully meet the needs in terms of equipment for the air force for the end of 2014 when transition will be complete. Thank you.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Thanks. When the build of the air force is complete there will be about an 8,000 person air force with about 145 airframes, both rotary wing and fixed wing. The key thing I would tell you right now is we have all the funding that we need to procure all those airframes. So that's not an issue.
In fact, most of the airframes, probably the next 50 have already... contracts have already been let and over the next two years those airframes will be delivered. So there is adequate funding currently being provided by the United States to procure the remainder of the airframes.
As far as the timing of that goes, it does take until 2016 till the last of the airframes have delivered, and really the last ones coming in are going to be these close-air support type aircraft. That contract's still to be let. Funding available. That we would hope that by next month it's let.
We're going to be adding onto a contract that the United States Air Force is buying of aircraft for the United States Air Force. So we're going to leverage the buy of the United States Air Force to procure these 20 airframes for Afghanistan.
They'll be rotary... I mean, propeller-driven, very sophisticated suites that give them the ability to do air-to-air and air-to-ground, both surveillance and interdiction and also have the ability to drop bombs and everything else too, in close air support role missions. But those 20 aircraft will be the last to come on line by 2016.
We are continuing to procure more additional rotary wing, helicopters. We just let the contract for 21 more MI-17, what they call Version 5, advanced avionic suite cockpit with a little powerful, more engine on it too, to operate in that part of the world.
So we are also just now starting to begin. The contracts have already been let, purchase has been made of what we call the 208 aircraft. It's one in which you can put a very sophisticated infra-red surveillance radar suite inside of it or make it an eight-person pax aircraft, eight personnel aircraft, to move people around too.
We look really closely at all these things because if you want to operate, an example, an MI-17 helicopter, if you want to fly it from Kabul to Kandahar and back total cost will be about $30,000. U.S. dollars. By the time you pay for fuel, maintenance and et cetera. If you want to take a 208 fixed-wing airplane and move the same number of people, you'd take two airplanes, you can do it for about $6,000. So about, you know, one-fifth of the cost. And so we're spending a lot of time now with our Afghan counterparts talking to them about air programming and costing of things so in the longer term they understand there are more economical and efficient ways to do certain movement of personnel and equipment than necessarily by rotary wing, which is very important for certain areas, but doesn't necessarily need to be the main way in which to move equipment.
So as we bring these more capabilities on line we'll continue helping them understand those kind of things.
The training's ongoing. We have today 120 pilots in the pipeline. There's about 70 that are down in the United Arab Emirates. We have a contract ongoing down there with the UAE, Emirates, where they're training pilots, Afghan pilots for us. And then we have another 50 that are inside the United States where we've got a contract where they're training pilots there for us.
Q: (Inaudible...) since when, because (inaudible...)?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: They've been down there for over a year now. I visited them there about probably a year ago when we first started sending them down there. We expect them back in about a year. You're right, it's about a two-year process by the time you go through all that English language certification, and everything else that's required to become a pilot. But that'll be about 120 brand new, second lieutenants, extremely well trained and versed in how to be pilots that'll be coming back in.
This December we're going to open up and start our first indigenous pilot training program inside of Afghanistan at Shindand Air Base. We just procured six flight trainers that now have arrived and are down in Shindand. We just had our first six T-182... it's a small fixed-wing single prop airplane trainer, that just arrived at Shindand. They just flew in from the United States, self-deployed all the way over. And those first six just arrived and we're finishing the construction of a couple more facilities. Our first pilot training will start inside of Afghanistan this December, and just continue to grow and enlarge as we bring on more capacity on there so that we don't have to do any more training outside of Afghanistan in the future years ahead.
Again, giving them that indigenous capacity and capability. Initially we'll deal with a lot of contractors and NATO trainers, and then over time we'll transition into Afghans being the trainers of their own pilots.
OANA LUNGESCU: Financial Times.
Q: Yes, thank you. General Caldwell, Peter Spiegel from the Financial Times. Can I ask you to address the recent UN report on abuses by, I think the civilian agencies, the intelligence and police in Afghanistan? Have you dealt with the UN on that, liaised with them at all, and do you have any reaction to that?
Also there seems to be some discussion reports about desertion rates going back up again after a pretty good trend line of late. Can you address that as well, if that's accurate and is that any sign that... what does that tell us, I guess, is the question? Thanks.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Sure. I guess the first thing I would say on the allegations of mistreatment and the report that just came out, although I have not read it in its entirety I'm very much aware of it, and what I can tell you from International Security Force Assistance mission, for General Allen on down, is something we all take very seriously. Our Afghan counterparts do too.
We have spent a considerable amount of time in the training base incorporating more human rights training, and those type of skill sets into our training base so that as the new police and army go through the training process that it's inculcated into them about treating all detainees with respect and dignity.
These allegations that were made of mistreatment in that report, General Allen last month, the commander of ISAF, was made aware of this and he did issue a statement and I'll refer to a couple of notes here I have on this, just to make sure I have the data accurate. But in early September he did issue an order that stopped the transfer of all detainees to the 16 installations that were identified in the UNAMA report. So that was done early last month, that he stopped the transfer of all detainees from ISAF forces, NATO forces, to those 16 facilities where there has been alleged mistreatment.
He also gave an order with clear guidelines to start the implementation of a long-term detention certification and monitoring framework program before he will allow the resumption of any detainees being sent to those 16 facilities.
He's got a six-phase plan that he put in place. We've all been briefed on it in country, we're all out executing and implementing this already. Both us, the NATO forces, with our Afghan partners. There has been an ongoing joint ISAF and both NDS and ANP police joint inspections that have been ongoing of these facilities, where there is alleged mistreatment of the detainees that did occur.
He's also started remediation training of facilities' leadership where we're helping support the Afghans with that, we're not doing it ourself. We're in support of them. Everything from helping write programs of instruction to working with the international community and establishing what kind of things should be in this remediation training of leadership, interrogators and detention guards on both human rights and detainee treatment. That's been ongoing. That has started.
He is going to require a formal certification by the ISAF Provost Marshal—that's their senior law enforcement official within ISAF—for each location where these allegations were made, to have occurred before he'll allow, again, any detainees to be transferred again to those locations.
We're also working very closely with our Afghan counterparts on this process. We literally have an ongoing dialogue almost on a daily basis. I can tell you from those of us who work within the Ministry of Interior it's a routine item that we do talk with the Minister about now. He's got inspection teams out himself and then, of course, there's the joint inspection teams that are out also going through now looking at this too.
The biggest thing that I'll tell you that the ISAF, we want to see happen here, is a lot more transparency and open communications in the detention of detainees by the Afghan Security Forces, whether they be the National Directorate of Security or a police element inside of Afghanistan, so that with transparency and accountability, you know, you greatly minimize the prospect of any kind of mistreatment occurring of a detainee.
So hopefully that gives you some background. We were fortunately, you know, to be given an advance copy by UNAMA last month so that we could immediately begin to take immediate steps, both us, ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force and our Afghan counterparts into addressing these alleged situations.
Q: (Inaudible...) training aspect of this? You said in your opening statement that you had recently implemented human rights training and similar things, I think within the last year you said. Have you done any internal looking at whether there were shortfalls in the training process in terms of human rights, rule of law, that kind of thing? Is that a failure at all on the training mission, do you think?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: What I tell you is we had it in the training base in the six-week program, there was about 14 hours that were embedded into the six weeks of training, but as the international... and again, we started, gosh, nine, ten months ago with the international community talking about expanding to an eight-week program. And in doing that we all sat down and collectively agreed upon many, many months ago what additional skills we want to further enhance the police force with that's somewhat a predominant today counter-insurgency force almost operating in that environment, to enable to move to more what we call blue police skills, where they become more of a civil police force and what are those things. And one that we all agreed was additional human rights training would be something that would be very important, that we'd want to add in. So we went from 14 hours to 32 hours during the eight weeks of training. So again, we didn't just double it, we added even more than that. Recognizing not that there is a shortfall, but it's something that we all collectively agreed, the international community, not just NATO Training Mission, that we want to see much greater emphasis placed on as we watched and observed the operations of various security forces inside of Afghanistan.
As far as the second part of your question about attrition, if I could here's what I could tell you. First of all, there's absolutely no challenge in meeting the current growth objectives. The Afghans officially yesterday met their growth objectives for this year by exceeding 305,000... 305.6 to be exact. They have now exceeded that, so even with any levels of attrition that are out there today there's no shortage or inability to continue growing this force. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, on retention we've got about somewhere between 60 to 70 percent of those who are eligible, who served in three years, that could leave the force, are making the decision to continuing to serve. They're signing up for another stint within the army and the police.
So those serving are making the decision to continuing to serve. What we do find is, you know, we took what was an army of about 97,000... we've almost double it in two years. We took what they had taken about eight years to grow and we doubled that in two years. And anytime you take and have that kind of rapid expansion you're going to have some growing challenges associated with it. Not unexpected in the least. You take any large corporation in the world and tell it to double itself overnight, in two years, first of all it'll be challenged to find the human capital. It's going to be challenged to find leaders. It's going to be challenged to find the right quality of type of people.
The one thing we have been very adamant about is we were not going to sacrifice quality for quantity as we continue growing this force. And so what we have seen is that the attrition challenge out there that the Afghans have is about on par, maybe slightly up recently, that they've had over the last two years. It's not been basically unchanged, but until we get this force up to about 352,000, get the requisite leaders out there that are necessary, we're going to probably stay and still experience generally about what we see today.
Because the thing we have done... we've got joint boards that sit down, us and the Afghans, and look at this issue. On a monthly basis we do it. We found recently what they call a kandak, a battalion of about 800 people in Kabul, part of the 111th Division that has almost negligible attrition. I mean, almost none. And we obviously went in there to dig into and ask ourselves why this kandak, unlike many of the others, almost has none, when most armies in the world experience anywhere about a 15 to 18 percent attrition in their own armies. We do in the American army. It's not an unusual... that's about a normal amount.
So we went in and really researched it and what we found is it really boiled down to leadership. You know, the kandak commander, the battalion commander has put a real focus on taking care of soldiers, in his battalion. He has set up a standardized leave schedule. Now part of the problem we had two years ago was none of these young men could read at all. Today about half of them have their level of basic reading level literacy. They can read a chart now and understand when they're supposed to be going on leave and when it's supposed to rotate to them in their next cycle.
So they have an expectation and ensure that they get their authorized leave time, that's authorized to them instead of feeling they have to just take it on their own.
He also watches what they get paid. He actually goes around and talks to his soldiers to make sure they got their full pay that they're supposed to get that month. That somewhere along the line some of it didn't disappear. He looks very closely at their food and the quality of the food. I've learned more about quality of rice and meat and everything else over these two years I would never have thought of, but again, it's another area that if you're not careful corruption can creep into and so you have to monitor that and watch it very carefully, the quality of rice you by and the quality of the meat and everything else.
And then he looks at their living conditions and he makes sure that they're adequate. Again, they don't have to be anything extraordinary, they just need to be adequate. And doing those four things, there's almost negligible attrition. I mean, it's below what would be normally expected.
We found another unit down in Kandahar, the same thing. And it's a unit that's in constant combat too. So where we have found pockets of leaders that are doing an exceptional job, that understand about the need to serve others, to be a servant of your men and some women out there, that that really does help rectify a lot of this.
And so therefore it just validated to us that our focus since day one on the importance of leadership is really something that we've put a lot of attention on and we'll continue to focus on in this mission.
OANA LUNGESCU: German Press.
Q: Hi. I think I remember reading a story a couple of months ago that some states in Afghanistan were having trouble meeting their recruiting targets, even though the overall targets may be met because of intimidation by the Taliban. How much of a problem is that?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Well, I guess really I assume what you're asking about is southern Pashtuns maybe. And last month, the month of September, was the highest number of southern Pashtuns that we've recruited in the last two years. There's been an intense effort by the senior leadership of the Ministry of Defence to recruit southern Pashtuns. They started it last fall, about a year ago now, and they've actually placed people down in the southern provinces to help reach out and interface with the local community, the governors, the tribal leaders, to sit in on shuras, to encourage the young men down there to serve the country of Afghanistan.
We had set a goal a year ago that we would eventually want to get to ten percent of the recruits coming in each month were southern Pashtuns. We set an inial modest goal of four percent collectively between us. They've been meeting it now for the last three, four months. In fact, these last two months it was exceptionally high with this past month being over ten percent. It's the first time we've ever been able to attain that. It's a singular data point. We will want to see a trend continue like that. That'd be ideal, because that means that at the level that would be representative of the people and the ethnicity being southern Pashtuns of Afghanistan, if that can be maintained as a trend, but it's a singular point, but we're very encouraged because it hasn't happened in two years but did this past month.
And we know over the last four months there's been a real steady incline of southern Pashtuns joining the force, the army, that is, which we hadn't seen before either. And so we're very encouraged by what we're starting to see. We just want to see that now continue as we move forth.
OANA LUNGESCU: AP.
Q: Just one question for you, Oana. Do you have any comment on the verdict in Ukraine for Yulia Tymoshenko? And then General, in view of your family background, what makes you so optimistic about this training effort in comparison with the much bigger training effort in Vietnam, which in the end... and much longer, which in the end didn't end very well? Your own father was there, I think in this role, so can you compare these two for me?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Do you want me to let Oana go first? That was great. I hadn't realized that. That was a... no, please go right ahead.
OANA LUNGESCU: On the verdict against the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine this is a disappointing decision. As President Yanukovych has stated, though, this is not the end of the process so we hope that a solution can be found on the basis of the rule of law.
Clearly the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy are basic fundamental values for NATO and they underline the relationship between NATO and Ukraine. And you can expect that allies will be looking very closely at this verdict and will take it into account when they start their assessment of Ukraine's national annual program towards the end of this month.
So they will be looking at the state of reforms in Ukraine, including at justice reforms.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: If I look back at... you know, you asked the question, my father, he served both in obviously Korea and Vietnam and what I would tell you is we look back at the Korean experience, that country today, a very prosperous country that's moving forward, very prominent in the world, and I think one of the things you see there that there is a long-term international commitment to remain engaged with and continue to help the South Koreans after that conflict there was terminated, as they move forward.
We didn't see the same in Vietnam. In fact, what we saw was the international community basically turned it over to them to handle the situation themselves. There's been a lot of talk about here in Afghanistan what will be the long-term international commitment beyond the period where they take the lead for security, which is December of 2014. And what I would say is, I'm encouraged when I start hearing nations like the United Kingdom who said they're going to remain engaged in leader development inside of Afghanistan till 2023, or when I hear the Australians say they're going to remain engaged in the development of leaders in Afghanistan until 2020 at least.
I know as an American officer that my country is in a dialogue with the Afghan leadership about how long American presence may reside here in this country and to what level, but I think what we will find, again I'm speaking as an American officer for a minute, that the United States has an intent and in the ongoing dialogue plans to remain engaged to some level in Afghanistan well beyond 2014 too.
My boss, my NATO boss here, General Allen inside of Afghanistan, has said we're going to be here... and I think his exact words were, a long time is what he says and so I'm much more encouraged about the possibilities of what can happen here in Afghanistan by the decision in the international community to remain engaged well beyond December of 2014.
Not only will they need some monetary assistance, but they're going to need also military assistance. They're still going to need some trainers. If you were to ask me a number I would say that by December of 2014 our training mission, which today has 5,100 personnel, military and civilian police, could easily be cut in half as we continue to assist and help in further development beyond that period.
And then of course they're going to need other things like they're still going to need some air support, they're still going to need some intelligence support. They're still going to need some sort of counter terrorism strike force that's available in the country to go after selected targets in concert with the Afghans.
So those kind of skill sets will still need to be resident beyond December 2014 to assist the Afghans.
So if the international community does do as they're talking about I see a much different outcome occurring here inside of Afghanistan with their security force in the future years ahead.
OANA LUNGESCU: We've got at least two more questions, if that's okay.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Sure.
OANA LUNGESCU: We'll go over there, Belgium News.
Q: A little mistake, Hans (inaudible), Netherlands Press Association. General, coming back to the issue of the number of recruits that you called phenomenal in your introduction, last night the Dutch Chief of Defence Staff, General van Uhm announced that part of the Dutch police trainers in Kunduz will be withdrawn because of a lack of recruits. What's your take on that?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: I did not hear that statement last night, so it's great to come here and get brought up to the current events of today.
We've had tremendous dialogue and discussion with the Dutch leadership, with the ambassador there inside of Afghanistan and obviously there's caveats that the Dutch government has placed on where and what type of police they're willing to train inside of Afghanistan. And I think what's occurred, again from hearing what you just said, is that their intent was to train police that would operate inside of Kunduz, in that area, and we've probably reached the level of what we call their authorized level of (inaudible), their authorized level of police in that area have now probably been trained. And so the real question was whether they'd be willing to train police that would serve in other parts of Afghanistan.
But, again, it's a political decision that the Dutch government made to train police that would just operate inside of Kunduz, I guess, and so, you know, we... we welcome all international contributions of police trainers. It really helps to have professional police involved in that effort, versus doing military personnel or contract personnel to be leading that. They've made a real contribution, the Dutch police have, that have been there.
So I'll go back and look at exactly what was said and what that impact will be, but I'd just say up to this point I've been very appreciative of what the Dutch government has done and that for the trainers that we have had from the Dutch government working side of Afghanistan.
Q: (Inaudible...) here has been about a lack of recruits in that area. Because that's the point he made, there are not enough recruits to train, so...
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: Yes, I'll have to go back and look at it. That would actually be very surprising to me because we've not had a challenge with recruits being willing to serve both in the police and in the army. You know, like I said we have so many every month now that we're able to actually do a very deliberate screening process with our Afghan counterparts and turn away many. Some we determine to be underage, even though they have papers that say they're of age. Some for medical reasons. Some because the biometric data shows something that is irregular and therefore we're not going to take the risk of allowing them into the security force, so we just politely tell them that there's no need for their service.
OANA LUNGESCU: Suddenly there's lots more hands going up. (Laughs). And I will refrain for introducing anybody. Ah, but just behind (inaudible...) from ANP.
Q: Yes, you are training a huge force, policemen, soldiers, do you think that this force will be faithful to the government? What is your personal opinion on that, after two years of training?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: You know, when I opened up I said there were reasons to be sceptical about this mission in 2009 and today I'll tell you I feel very differently. I look at the events of September 13, I guess is the best example I can give you, a very recent example. You know, it's the day that a lot of the media said Kabul's under siege, yet what I saw was a very different story being on the ground in Kabul and moving around the city that day.
What I saw was three policemen in three different instances that gave their lives to protect and serve the people of Afghanistan. I saw a young police patrolman that was on duty in front of his police station and he spotted a suspicious man nearby. When he approached him the man got up to flee, he saw a suicide vest, and John Ali(ph) was the police officer's name, took after this man and knocked him down as he was moving towards a crowd of students coming out of a high school that was adjacent to the police station. And in knocking him down, as he went down, the suicide bomber detonated his suicide vest and instantly killed obviously himself and John Ali. John Ali left a family of four and a wife that lived there in Kabul.
There was another incident over at the (inaudible) police headquarters, the 1st Brigade Headquarters, where again another police office, and seeing a suspicious person approaches him, identifies it as another suicide bomber and immediately does a bear hug and embraces this person and takes the full impact of that explosion and saving the lives of many other police officers right in that vicinity.
And then there is another one in another police centre there, where again the same type of situation took place but in this case they were able to kill the would-be suicide bomber before he was able to set it off. But in doing so one of the police officers died.
So we had three different incidents that same afternoon of September 13th where three police officers in three different police pillars, each gave their lives in stopping suicide bombers from inflicting large casualties on innocent Afghan civilians. Those people were dedicated to doing their jobs and serving the people of Afghanistan.
When I go out and see army recruits, you know, for the first time when I'm hearing them tell me is there one element of national unity they're starting to feel like they have in their country it's their army. It's the most ethnically balanced force that exists today inside of Afghanistan. You know, it's something very, very closely us and the Afghans monitor every single month, within each of the ranks, by each ethnicity, and we make sure organizations are built to be ethnically balanced.
But I'm really finding that the people talk about that's a real source of national unity for them is their Afghan National Army. And when that kind of thing starts occurring, when they're not talking about a region or a tribe or ethnicity, but rather about a national symbol, that really does start to give you a lot more hope about what the possibilities are.
And again, it starts with leaders and this last group of 299 young national military academy graduates that graduated at the end of March this year from their military academy, when you talk to those 300 young second lieutenants they're all about serving Afghanistan. And you know, again, this class that just came in, 600 young me, out of 4,600 that were qualified, you know, we made it 100 percent ethnically balanced. Not only do we ethnically balance it, we ran around the country and put pins with our Afghan counterparts in every single district in their country so that there is a person from every place in that nation that's represented in this class of 600 that just entered their four-year military academy. Again, working very diligently towards establishing a national unity force that the people are now starting to talk about.
So I really believe that feeling of serving the people of Afghanistan is taking hold. It's not something we're in the lead for, but I find Afghans themselves starting to talk about, of which that we talk about, your job is to serve and protect, to uphold the constitution of Afghanistan, which most could not read two years ago, but about half this force now has the ability to start to comprehend and read basic parts of it. Values have now been instituted in the army and the police. Two years ago none existed. Today you can actually go in and talk to police and army recruits, what's your value system? And there's a value system that's been established that's been the Afghans have approved and implemented, that is now being taught. It's even being taught in the literacy courses too, so that we teach them the loyalty, duty and God and country and those type of words that are in their value system.
So I see a real change from two years ago to today that really does make me very optimistic about what can be in the future.
OANA LUNGESCU: Okay. Yes. Really, the final two questions, very quickly. Please introduce yourselves, we'll go back there and then to (inaudible).
Q: Christopher Ziedler for the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Tagesspiegel in Germany. You mentioned challenges and possibly some difficult times ahead too, although you're very optimistic. Can you tell us a bit what especially in your mission what critical phases or points in the near or mid-term future you're looking at with expectation or with some... yeah, perhaps nervous or not. What are those critical points in the future you're looking at?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: You know, I'd say, as I sit down with my Afghan counterparts and we constantly, what we call war game, you know, try to think ahead and anticipate and prepare for things that might occur out there, I would say the biggest one is just the continuing need for the army and the police to serve the people.
If they maintain that ethos that they're imbuing today into the police force and into the army you'll have a dramatic difference in how the people look at their police and army. And in fact, can have a real difference in how this whole insurgency takes hold or starts to dissipate inside Afghanistan.
You know, you're never going to kill your way to victory. The kinetic operations that happen are not going to be the thing that's going to be the decisive factor inside of Afghanistan. It can set the conditions, but ultimately it's about a government, it's about a security force that serves and protects the people that's really going to be the determinant factor.
The one face of the government that's out there every day is the police, so the more the police actually believe that they're there to serve and protect, rather than to be served and to profit, it will really start to have a dramatic impact on how the people view the country of Afghanistan and their willingness to support and be a part of what this government is trying to do out there in that country.
So those are the kind of things we really spend time talking about and how important it is. And again, it always ends up coming back to leader development. The importance of leaders and how just critical it is that we continue to make that a number one priority in everything we do with our Afghan counterparts, because leaders really do make a significant difference.
OANA LUNGESCU: Final question to NPR.
Q: Teri Schultz with the National Public Radio and Global Post. Earlier this year there was such fear and such an apparent increase in infiltration that you were training a team to specifically... of Afghans, obviously, to work specifically on being eyes, looking more carefully at their colleagues, their counterparts and seeing if they were a risk for turning.
And I'm wondering if you can just update us on how that's going, if they are seeming to pull people out that you would have had something to fear from. And also after the Rabbani assassination in particular, but also other high level assassinations, has there been any change or any greater role for NATO in personal protection of high level individuals?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: You know what I'd tell you is that there is a very, what we call, active and continuous ongoing process to assess those who are serving in the force, the police and the army, to ensure that they are, in fact, serving the government of Afghanistan and have not been necessarily turned to do something differently.
What we started last... about this time last year, the training of counter intelligence personnel. We've trained several hundred now on counter intelligence personnel that are today now serving both in the army and in the police.
What we started around May, June timeframe was also now starting to train Afghans to be the trainers of counter intelligence personnel so the coalition wouldn't be doing that anymore, but rather the Afghans could take the lead. They have not yet taken full responsibility, but within about another six months they'll be in the lead for doing that training themselves.
We're going to still double the size of that current force that's out there in the police and the army today, in terms of putting even more counter intelligence personnel inside the police force so there'd be hundreds inside the army and hundreds inside the police force to give everyone, more importantly than anything the Afghans themselves, but then also the coalition partners working with them, the assurance that everything possible that could be done is being done to preclude the ability of somebody to turn somebody who's currently serving in the force to do harm to those who are assisting or helping, or even though they're Afghans, which has occurred to.
So there is an ongoing very deliberate effort.
Q: Are they pulling people out?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL: They are. And we obviously have a very detailed eight-step vetting process that we use as people come in. I say we, we and the Afghans collectively together, which now has the National Directorate of Security integrated into it also, so it's now much a more holistic Afghan look. It ties into an Afghan national biometric database of which there's hundreds of thousands of data in there now, of Afghans, that we screen against, on a monthly basis. I've never tired to put an exact number to it, but I know every month we do pick up people that are trying to come into the force.
Some... there's different categories. Some are categories that just say this person should not be allowed entry into the security services, so we turn them away. And there are people every month like that. There's others that are in a category that says if you find this person please detain them for further questioning by Afghan authorities. And we do pick up one or two or three every month also like that.
We currently are doing a 100 percent biometric reenrolment of the entire police force and the army and each month we pick up one or two also there that require further questioning and discussion with Afghan authorities.
So it's a continuous active ongoing process. There's no end state to it. As we tell the Afghans, you'll want to continually do this all the time. You just constantly keep refreshing it and then that gives you the greatest assurance that you're going to preclude this kind of insider threat from occurring inside your police or army.
As far as senior officials within the Afghan government, there is an ongoing effort being done bilateral currently by the United States to assist the Afghan government in greater protection for senior Afghan officials. I realize I do look like an American officer. Also I'm a NATO officer, but I'm very much aware of and knowledgeable about this ongoing effort by the United States to assist.
It's predominantly by giving them, enabling them to do it themselves through monetary support and information and specialized kinds of instruction that they can enhance and further add to the amount of protection being given to senior Afghan officials, without the United States personally being involved in it or the vetting of it or the certification of it. The Afghans will do all that. But they needed monetary support and some specialized instruction for their trainers and those kind of things are happening, started in the last couple of weeks. Beyond what was currently being done in the past based on clearly what happened in Afghanistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: Lieutenant General Caldwell, thank you very much for giving us such a thorough, detailed overview of the achievements of NTM-A over the last two years and thank you very much for your very clear dedication and all your hard work. And thank you very much for being here.