28 Jan 2008

Video Tele Conference

with Brigadier General D. Tabbernor, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, CSTC-A

PEGGY BEAUPLET (Media Operations Center for Afghanistan, NATO Headquarters): General, thank you very much for taking some of your time to meet with our journalists here in Brussels. My name is Peggy Beauplet. I'm working at the Media Operations Center for Afghanistan here at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. And if you don't mind I will introduce my journalists and then pass the floor onto you for your introductory remarks.

BRIGADIER-GENERAL DENNIS TABBERNOR (Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, CSTC-A): Thank you.

BEAUPLET: So on my left I have Ahto Lobjakas who is working for Radio Free Europe. Then, immediately on my right there is Tejinder Singh who is working for New Europe, the European Weekly, and then Brooks Tigner for Jane's Defence Weekly. Sir, the floor is yours.

TABBERNOR: Well, thank you, and I guess it's good morning to you over there. By way of introduction I'm Brigadier General Dennis Tabbernor and I'm a Canadian serving with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan or better know as CSTC-A.

Before coming here to Afghanistan, I worked in our army headquarters as Director General Land Reserve. I've been in Afghanistan since the end of April, and am the Deputy Commanding General for Afghan National Development. So I will use the term ANA Development in the future.

I'm one of the 11 Canadians employed on the staff of CSTC-A. And two of that eleven are members of our Royal Canadian Mounted Police who work with the Afghan National Police.

Now, for the remainder of my opening remarks I will focus on CSTC-A's mission as it applies to the Afghan National Army.

Headquarters at Camp Eggers Kabul, CSTC-A is a joint service coalition organization with military personnel from the United-States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Albania, Germany, France and Romania, as well as a number of contracted civilian advisers, mentors and trainers. Our mission in partnership with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the international community is to plan, program and implement structure organizational institutional and management reforms within the Afghan National Army. We provide advisers, mentors and trainers to help the Ministry of Defence organize, train, equip, employ and support the ANA to defeat the insurgency, provide intern security, extend and enforce the rule of law, set conditions for economic development and gain the trust and confidence of the citizens of Afghanistan.

Mission success for us is defined as fielding an Afghan National Army that is professional, literate, ethnically diverse, tactically competent and capable of providing security throughout Afghanistan.

Now, I think you're probably aware, but the Afghan National Army includes five ground manoeuvre corps and one air corps. Current development calls for the Afghan National Army to have 76 battalions organized into 13 light brigades, a mechanized brigade, a commando brigade, enabling units and the initial operation of an air corps by the end of fiscal year of 2009.

The five army corps serve as regional commands that include the 201st in Kabul; 203rd in Gardez; 205th in Kandahar; 207th in Herat and the 209th Corps in Mazar-i-Sharif.

These regional commands put a permanent ANA presence in every region of Afghanistan. They clearly demonstrate to the Afghan people and to the international community that the Afghan national government authority extends throughout the nation.

Care is taken to ensure that the Afghan National Army is composed of soldiers from all of Afghanistan's major ethnic groups: the Pashtun, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmen et cetera. And that they are balanced according to the country's national average... averages.

The ANA is truly a national army representing all the people of Afghanistan.

As the Deputy Commanding General responsible for the ANA I oversee the staff within CSTC-A who daily work with the Afghan National Army to reach mutual goals that assist in developing capacity within the ANA.

I interact on a regular basis with the senior leaders of the Afghan National Army and also spend a great deal of my time travelling around Afghanistan visiting CSTC-A, Afghan and coalition soldiers.

In my travels, I've remarked that the ANA is a truly national force of motivated soldiers willing and able to do battle with the enemies that are plaguing the country.

Before I take your questions, I would briefly like to talk about a very successful program that we have within the Afghan National Army. Just before my arrival, decisions were taken to provide Afghanistan with a highly capable mobile force of six battalions of commando soldiers.

The first battalion of these soldiers started training in May of last year with Afghan instructors supervised by coalition special forces. Next Tuesday, we graduate the 3rd Battalion. And when the 4th Battalion starts training in mid-February, the Afghan instructors will take complete control.  

In a very short timeframe, we have seen this program produce highly capable soldiers for Afghanistan. And we've seen the Afghan instructors grow in confidence and ability to take the principal role for the training of future battalions.

With these few remarks, I would now be happy to answer your questions.

BEAUPLET: Sir, thank you very much for these introductory remarks. Without any delay anyone? (Inaudible)... Brooks?

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's. Just a couple of mechanical questions if you will, just to warm us a bit. First, how many ANA troops are you directly training out of the total army? And secondly, just for my own edification, what is the working language of the ANA when they are by themselves, not with, you know, ISAF commanders around? Do they have a common working language? Thank you.

TABBERNOR: There are two official languages for the Afghan National Army: Dari and Pashto. And depending on where you are, one is perhaps more prevalent than the other. But for most of the interaction within the army, Dari is the principal language and Pashto is the secondary. You'll find that most the senior officers and the NCOs can speak both and most of the soldiers have a working knowledge of both; obviously being proficient in one or the other.

With regards to your question on training, I'm not exactly sure what you are asking. How many do we have in training today? How many soldiers are there in the army today? Could you please expand on that a bit more?

Q: Well, to train a country's entire army is a very formidable task so... And NATO often complains about not having enough OMLTs, for instance. So it's not clear in my mind how much of the army has actually been trained up to standards that you expect. I mean, I'm looking for a proportion of how much further we have to go. We've been told figures in the past by some of your colleagues that, oh by year X, we expect this is will be a fully trained army they could send on its own, et cetera. So I'm just trying to get some grasp of the timeframe here.

TABBERNOR: That's a good question. Right now, out of the 70,000 soldiers that are authorized for the Afghan National Army we have about 50,000 trained soldiers. So, as with any army, there's... the training that's done... the basic recruit training and we do those in a number of locations here in Afghanistan, the principal training centre being the Kabul Military Training Centre. But we have regional training locations in all the corps areas. Individual training takes place in those six locations.

The role of the Observer Mentor Liaison Teams and on the American side the Embedded Training Teams is to help the Afghan battalions become proficient operating at the company battalion and brigade level.

So it is a hit and miss process... No, let me... let me rephrase that. Depending on where you are in Afghanistan and who the coalition partners some battalions and brigades are more proficient than others. As an example, out in the East where we find two or three corps, we are at the point in time in their development where the corps headquarters is able to plan, execute and direct corps level missions using Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and coalition forces. So they're probably our most advanced corps in the Afghan National Army.

And then, if you want my opinion as to how long it will be to get the Afghan National Army to the point where they can fight by themselves, I think that is not a simple question, just saying, okay, X number of years. There are a number of... as opposed to time, I think it's a capability issue. And to help us assist with that, we have, starting this month, we have validation training teams going around the army, looking at how capable the Kandaks, the battalions, are in doing what they need to do as a battalion.

And these validation training teams in conjunction with the coalition partners and in conjunction with our Afghan National Army partners will define how capable these units are.

Q: (Inaudible)...

TABBERNOR: I'm sorry I can't hear you.

Okay.

Technology.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, you're not coming through.

Q: Ahto Lobjakas for Radio Free Europe. Can you hear me?

TABBERNOR: We're good.

Q: We're good, right. I have two questions. This aim of... This aim of attaining full ethnic diversity, how does this translate into whatever ethnic mix is there on the ground? Last year, in Kandahar, I was told by the commander of the 205th Corps, I think, that most of these soldiers are non-Pashtun if not all and that is the government policy. And then that would seem to me to be somewhat counterproductive in areas where you're facing a Pashtun insurgency.

And secondly, I'm trying to get my mind around a timeframe again, going back to the question asked by my colleague. And that is... the question in my mind is some of your colleagues have told us that the Afghan National Army will be able to stand on its own feet by roughly the year 2010. On the other hand, you read... you hear people saying, it's a generational effort. I'm wondering what will happen in 2010 and when the generation is out, i.e. what's needed beyond the army being fully complemented for it to be able to take charge of the country? Thank you.

TABBERNOR: Thank you very much. With regards to ethnic diversity, I deal with the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff on this on a fairly regular basis. And both Minister Wardak and General Bismullah Khan are adamant that the Afghan National Army be a national institution with the proper ethnic balance across the army.

So whether it's a Kandak down south in Kandahar or a battalion up North in Mazari Sharif, the intent is to maintain that ethnic balance across the army.

I cannot give you the exact breakdown by numbers. But we try very hard in our recruiting to ensure that balance. So as an example, when we do recruit training at one of the remote sites, as an example Herat, the soldiers... the balance of the soldiers within that recruit battalion is examined to ensure that we have that ethnic balance.

So right at the very beginning efforts are made to maintain that ethnic balance. As soldiers leave the army, leave a particular area, the ethnic balance may be tilted a bit, until we can get... rebalance that by sending new soldiers. I will give you an example. At the Kabul Military Training Centre where we run an officer candidate school, the ethnic balance has been difficult to maintain. We recruit the proper ethnic balance.

But those who graduate out of the end may not equal the ethnic balance that we want. Perhaps too many Pashtuns have failed, perhaps too many Hazaras have failed. But as we do that we try and make it up on the next course. So the next course that we start, we will... if we've lost too many Hazaras as an example on previous courses, we'll try and get some more Hazaras loaded on the next course so that we can maintain that ethnic balance.

So it is something that we work very hard with in conjunction with the Afghan National Army to ensure that we maintain. As I say, both the Minister and the Chief of the General Staff think that the ethnic balance within the army is very important so that they maintain it as a national institution.

You talked about timeframe.  We have four capability levels that we judge the Afghan National Army against. The highest obviously is Capability Level 1. And if... when an Afghan unit has reached this capability we saw they have all the enablers that they need to be able to do the job by themselves. So again it's a capability-based issue as opposed to a timeline.

Right now, as the army builds, there are sort of three critical enablers that they do not have presently in the army. The first is close air support whether that's fixed wing or rotary. The second is indirect fire. And the third is medical evacuation by air.

Let me deal with indirect fire for a minute. We are presently working with the Afghan National Army to improve their artillery to take it from basically what was a Warsaw Pact standard artillery system to a NATO standard artillery system. And as we do that over the next couple of months, the Afghan National Army artillery will become more capable in the indirect fire role and therefore more able to support the Afghan National Army and the Coalition Forces in the indirect fire role.

As we increase the size of the Afghan National Army air corps, we will also be able to address the issue of casualty evacuation by air.

And then the last point is the close air support. Again, as the Afghan National air corps expands in size, they will eventually have their own capacity to do close support.

In the meantime, to bridge the gap from where we are to where we want to be, the Coalition Forces provide access to those enablers: so close air support, indirect fire, and casualty evacuation.

So as a light infantry force, the battalions are very capable of doing what they need to do. As I said, they're willing and able to do the battle, but they just lack those three key enablers which right now the Coalition provides. So as they get more proficient in providing those enablers themselves, then the Coalition can back off a bit in what they're doing.

I still haven't told you how long.

Q: Will you tell us how long?

TABBERNOR: (Laughs). How long is a piece of string? To me, it's an open-ended question. And I say... I go back to, when they have the capabilities that they need to operate on their own, they will.

Q: This is Tejinder from New Europe. On January (BREAK IN AUDIO)... in a (inaudible) press briefing it was asked has there been any more fallout from the Secretary's published comments about the capacity of NATO forces in the South? And the answer was that it was directed... that it was not directed at Canada, Holland et cetera, it was directed at the fact that the Alliance was, and still to a large degree is, constructed to take on a conventional threat from trying to invade Eastern Europe and we have to adjust to the new reality which is that we are facing an asymmetric insurgency far away from Europe. Unquote.

In the light of these comments, what will you say about training your coalition forces first and then training Afghans?

TABBERNOR: The training of Coalition Forces is basically a NATO issue and that is sort of outside my purview. What I will tell you though is that the OMLTs that come to work with the Afghan National Army are put through a training process in Hohenfels, or in their own nations before they come to Afghanistan.

On the Afghan Army side, we have... The training is focussed on COIN. We have just recently set up a COIN Academy here in Kabul where we bring members of the Afghan National Army, other members of the Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition Forces together to talk COIN.

So there is a course that we actually run as a course. We also have a train the trainer course where we train individuals and then they go back down to their brigades and units to pass on this information to the members of their units. So we have taken steps to refocus on COIN and have been doing so for a number of months now.

Q: This is Tejinder, New Europe still. I just was wondering that in a follow-up answer it was said these questions should be put to Allies and those who seemingly are reluctant to take advantage of the training. You are mentioning that they are getting trained in their own countries. While it was clear from that answer that the command was... or U.S. press secretary was thinking the other countries' forces are not up to the mark. And as you are dealing with all of them together, so what is your assessment of these soldiers from the other countries that you are getting for training the Afghans?

TABBERNOR: Again, what we get to work with the Afghans are the OMLTs. And there are a number of nations who provide OMLTs to ISAF to work with the Afghan National Army. And as I said, the OMLTs go through training in Hohenfels. When they arrive in theatre here, they're put through a process where they are validated on what they can or cannot do. And once they are validated, then they are partnered with an Afghan National Army unit.

So we have checks and balances here to assure that the coalition soldiers coming in to work directly with the Afghans as either OMLTs or Embedded Training Teams have done what... have done what and have the required capabilities that that we're looking for here.

I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's again, General, three (BREAK IN AUDIO)... related questions which I find... I found your comments there quite interesting.

One, could you elaborate a little bit more on the artillery issue when you say that you're working to help transition the army within the next few months from Warsaw Pact era equipment to NATO. If you could get some more detail, if there is any on that.

Secondly, if indeed the ANA has none of these three enablers, how are they being trained? I mean, that might seem like an obvious question, but who... is there any difference in the way they're being trained with these enablers that are lent to them in training versus the OMLTs out in the field—maybe there isn't?

And third, can you elaborate on whether there are any plans to donate some of these enables, particularly the close air support, because that's very expensive and I doubt that the ANA has the means to buy that?

Thank you.

TABBERNOR: On the artillery, in the short term the decision has been made to stick with the D-30 artillery piece, and as you're aware this is a piece of Soviet equipment.

The D-30s that they have in theatre here in Afghanistan are fitted with a 6000 ml Russian aiming system and as you're probably aware, NATO has the 6400 ml system.

So we are working to upgrade the D-30 artillery pieces from the 6000 ml Russian system to the 6400 ml NATO system. And as we do that we will run training courses for the artillery companies in the combat support battalions of... sorry, the combat support companies of the battalions to ensure that they are confident and capable of using the new aiming system, the 6400 ml system.

We're also doing that with the mortars that they use as well. We have 82 millimetre mortars here. The intent is to.... eventually to an 81 millimetre mortar system, but in the short term we will ensure that the mortars have the aiming sights that they need to be able to do the indirect fire.

With regards to the enablers, as I said, right now close air support is provided for and called for by members of the coalition that are embedded with the Afghan battalions.

As we move along, and as Afghanistan gets more of these of their own attack helicopters for attack fixed wing aircraft, we will train up the... we will train the Afghans to be able to call and direct close air support.

So this is not a today issue. This the day after tomorrow issue.

And with regards to your last question about donations, there have been a large number of donations to the Afghan National Army over the last year. And if you will allow me to I've got a list here of an example of stuff that has been donated.

The Czechs, as an example, have donated three MI-17 helicopters. We are getting NATO standard rifles from the Canadians and the Americans. We are getting D-30 kits from Slovakia and so that's just an example of the stuff that has been donated to the Afghan National Army. And there's, you know, millions of rounds of ammunition from former Warsaw Pact countries, but there's quite a substantial list here.

There is also, part of the budget we have here, part of that budget is earmarked to purchase aircraft for the Afghan National Army air corps.

I hope that was helpful.

Q: Very helpful. (BREAK IN AUDIO)... budget to buy aircraft for the Afghan National Army?

TABBERNOR: As you are probably aware the Afghan government's budget is not all that large. And as a result of that over the last number of years the American government has provided a substantial amount of money to build the Afghan National Security Forces.

And as an example, in fiscal year '07 the Americans have donated... have provided $4,800,000,000 to help with... to help to provide equipment and infrastructure to the Afghan National Army. And next year it is projected that the American government will give $1,700,000,000 to support the army.

So a lot of this money is directed towards either equipment, whether it be weapons or aircraft, and there is a substantial amount of it that goes to infrastructure, whether it be a brigade garrison location or a forward operating base. As an example, we have completed a 162 construction projects on the army side for a cost of $916 million. We have 66 projects that are ongoing for a cost of $558 million. And we have 61 projects planned for a cost of $1.84 billion.

And this is all American taxpayers' money.

The one good thing about being a Canadian is I can't touch money, so...

Q: Ahto Lobjakas, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty again. A couple of questions. Firstly, the examples you gave of donations feature prominently Warsaw Pact tendered equipment:  MI-17 helicopters, D-30s and then this Warsaw Pact standard donations.  And secondly, I understood, you said the Council... I think COIN stands for Counter-Intelligence... Counter-Insurgency (BREAK IN AUDIO)  Am I right, you said, the training has been refocused to COIN.  Does that matter...?  Does that mean there's been a shift in your thinking at some stage along the road, ie. You started with the idea of training them as a conventional army and now the focus is more on counterinsurgency. 

TABBERNOR:  Thank you with regards to the Warsaw... the donation of... as you say ex-Warsaw Pact...  or Warsaw Pact type equipment.  Right now, the vast majority of the Afghan National Army is ex-Soviet, so the soldiers carry AK-47.  They carry PKMs.  Hum...  And they use 82 millimetre mortars.  So the donation of AK... whether it's magazines, ammunition or actual weapons is still very useful for the Afghan National Army.  Ammunition for D-30 artillery pieces:  our intent is with the Afghan National Army is to keep using the D-34 for the foreseeable future because it's a very capable piece of equipment.  So yes, all these donations are... are useful. 

A decision has been made, though, in conjunction with the Afghan government and the Minister of Defence to slowly transition the Afghan National Army from Warsaw Pact weapons in the majority to NATO standard weapons.  So as we shift from Warsaw Pact weapons to NATO weapons then the...  We will go to the international community and shift our donations away from the Warsaw type of equipment to the NATO type of equipment.  So this will be a  transition period. 

Just as an example, I mentioned that the American have spent a fair bit of money on the Afghan National Army.  We are in the process of bringing in 55,000 M-16 A-2 rifles to equip the Afghan National Army with a NATO standard rifle and the Canadians down in the south in Kandahar have donated 2500 of their C-7 which is an M-16 variant to the corps down there.  So we're slowly transitioning the army to these weapons.  It will not be a short term process.  It will be a long term process that will take place over this upcoming year. 

With regards to counterinsurgency, I don't think it's a shift but I think what we recognize is that going back to your colleagues comments there about the coalition forces being trained for fighting in a European area.  I remember as a young soldier being trained in COIN but that doesn't mean that I still remember what I was taught so one of the reasons of setting a COIN academy was to build on what education or training individuals have had.  And with regards to the army, all the training that we do in the army right now for the soldiers is directed to small unit tactics, the ability for squads, platoons and companies to go off and operate on their own in built-up barriers or the desert or the mountains or whatever to take on these small groups of insurgents that are out there.  And I must tell that the insurgents don't necessarily want to take on the Afghan National Army, because everything the insurgents have stood and fought the Afghan National Army they have lost, they have died.  So the Afghan National Army is quite capable of operating in this theatre of operations.   So it answered your question?

Q: This is Tejinder from the new Europe still.  You mentioned that you're from Canada.  So may I ask you about the report who comes out of the John Manley panel which is asking for more troops?  There are four more points which (BREAK IN AUDIO).  One is you and...representative as comprehensive military in military planning.  You've been on the ground, what will be your input about this comprehensive military and political planning?  And then there is another one, the forceful representation with the neighbours.  We will come back to that later.  And fourth, which can comment on because being on the ground there about Afghan corruption which is a part of the society there and how much it affects your working.

TABBERNOR:  The fact that I'm wearing a Canadian flag on my shoulder doesn't necessarily mean that I'm paying attention to what is happening in Canada.  I could lift my flap here and show you the American flag that I've got underneath here but that might not go very well. 

I will tell you that when Mr. Manley and his panel were here in Afghanistan they came and spoke us at CSTC-A to get our impressions of what Canada could be doing on the ground in Kandahar so I had the change to interact with Mr. Manley and his panel with the leadership over at CSTC-A.  I have not read his report other than what the newspapers have reported.  So I cannot really comment more on it than probably what you know.

With the regards to the comprehensive military and the political planning here on the ground, you have to understand that NATO has a lead here on the ground for operations and our job over at CSTC-A is to train the Afghan National Army, help the Afghan National Army achieve its aims.  And if we're asked to by the Afghan National Army to provide... to help them prepare for discussion with ISAF here on the way ahead. 

I can tell that there have been a number of discussions in the last month between ISAF headquarters and the Ministry of Defence looking at the long-term strategic requirements on the ground here in Afghanistan.  Obviously, I can't get into details but I can, you know, say that General McNeill here, the commander of ISAF has worked very closely with the minister of Defence here and the chief of General Staff to develop the plan for the military operations on the ground here in Afghanistan in the upcoming months. 

On the corruption issue... In dealing the Afghan National Army I have not seen very much corruption within the Afghan National Army. The senior leaders that I deal with, the soldiers that I meet on the ground to me seem to be individuals who are truly dedicated to the future of their country.  Now, whether there is corruption going on in the background, I'm not aware of that.  You know, you hear discussions over here, but I do not have any sort of concrete examples that I can give you about corruption. 

I will tell you that the senior leadership of the Afghan National Army is working very, very hard to ensure again that the army is a national institution that can be trusted by the people.  And part of that is to eliminate corruption within  the army if... where and if they find it. 

And I'm sorry you had another one in there that I can't remember what the question was.

Q:  Yes, this is Tejinder from New Europe. I was mentioning (BREAK IN AUDIO) forceful representations with neighbours to improve security.  President Musharraf was in Brussels in last few days.  And he was... he said that it was Pakistan which had trained mujaheedins and then had driven out Soviets and then they were left to fend for themselves.  And today, he said... what is the ground feeling there?  How Pakistan is doing or not doing with respect to the help to the Afghan National Army?

TABBERNOR:  There is a couple of parts to your question here.  I guess if you say is Pakistan assisting in the development of the Afghan National Army, the answer is yes.  We have members of the Afghan National Army who are in Pakistan right now undergoing training.  And the Pakistan government is very generous in providing training opportunities to the Afghan National Army.  So in that area, yes, they are helping. 

With regards to what is happening on the ground in Pakistan, obviously I'm not the person to be talking about that, it's probably the president of Pakistan.  Are there issues on the border?  Yes, the border is very porous.  You probably are well aware of what the country is like over here in this part of the world.  And for Pakistan and Afghanistan to basically close off their common border, I don't think either of them have anywhere near the troops nor the population to do so.  There are...  There is ongoing cooperation between the government of Afghanistan and the government of Pakistan to deal with this issue.  But you know the issues are quite large.  And both countries have challenges in that area dealing with the problems on the border. 

Q:  Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's again.  Well, that actually is linked to the question I was going to ask you.  You mentioned how difficult it is for them to patrol their borders.  It seems to me that an important enabler from a training point of view which you didn't mention maybe they already have, I doubt it, is a safe and secure communications and ISR capabilities surveillance, not just human intelligence, but from the equipment point of view.  So I was wondering, (BREAK IN AUDIO)... training.  Have the equipment to do this?  And you mentioned, if not, is... is this ISR capability to enable the ANA to keep an eye on all of its borders part of the long-term strategic planning that you... that ISAF and the MOD are doing together?  Thank you.

TABBERNOR:  Good question, thank you very much.  Now, you are right.  The Afghans... the Afghans on the human side are very good.  In fact, they are probably much better than we are.  But on the technical side of ISR, they do not necessarily have those enablers right now.  And those are the types of enablers that are being provided by the coalition.  So you'll find that in the regions that unmanned aerial vehicles are provided by the coalition forces down there.  And the intelligence that they gather are shared... are shared with the Afghan National Army.  So you're right, they do not have those now.  And in the long-term they will be developed with the coalition. 

Q:  Ahto Lobjakas, Radio Free Europe.  Your comments on the situation on the borders, I'll venture  another question along these lines, that is President Musharraf when he was here said that Pakistan's efforts had resulted into a 42% drop in illegal border crossing.  I was wondering if this is evident on both sides at all.  And secondly, very briefly, going back to these officer training courses in Kabul, I was wondering if you could tell us what the drop-out rates are for the Pashtun recruits.  Again, when I was down there, I was told that these rates could be phenomenal.  Thank you.

TABBERNOR:  I cannot adequately comment on border crossings because as I say that is within somebody else's area of expertise.  So sorry on that one.  With regards to the drop off rate, I cannot give you the exact figures.  I think on the last course, we only had 11 soldiers out of 200 failed. So that's not a large number.  And as I said if it is noticed that there is particular ethnicity that has dropped off on one course, then we try very hard on the next course to rebalance the numbers.  So this is a six month course that is run for them and we are about to start I think our third and fourth courses are coming up now.  So... we have not necessarily put a large number of people through the Officer Candidate School courses.  And again, are the Pashtuns more prevalent to fail this course than anybody else?  I will say the answer is no.  And again, the data... the data over two courses is not really a trend.  So we would have to see what happens at the end of this third course and this upcoming fourth course, what the trend is.  But we keep an eye on it with the Ministry of Defence.  And if there's an issue, we move to correct that issue.  Because as I mentioned before, the ethnic balance within the army is a critical issue for both the minister and for chief of the General Staff. 

Q:  What's the language of instruction for these recruits thank you?

TABBERNOR:  The language of instruction is Dari.  And if there is a problem with individuals understanding, they also have individuals...  Well, the instructor probably speaks both languages.  But the working language on a day to day basis is Dari but Pashto is also spoken within the army. 

Q:  Tejinder Singh, New Europe again.  Retired Lieutenant-General David Barno recently wrote that he said that about the resurgence of taliban.  He said that it appears to be a much more capable taliban, a stronger taliban than when I was there.  He was there from (AUDIO BREAK) to 2005 as you know.  Would you like to comment on how this affecting your training of the Afghan National Army and the moral of the National Army. 

TABBERNOR:  As I indicated earlier, in my discussion with the soldiers I find the soldiers' moral is high and they're well motivated.  And they're willing to close with and engage the enemy.  And as I indicated before, whenever the enemy has stood to fight the Afghan National Army they have lost.  And as a result of that, we are seeing more asymmetrical type of attacks by the enemy whether that be improvised explosive devices or suicide bombers.  And we're seeing less and less of them right now actually attacking the Afghan National Army.  So we don't see, you know, hundreds of talibans formed up to attack the army.  Because whenever they form up in hundreds that's great for us because they die in hundreds and the army kills them.  So are they more capable?  They may be.  Is the army afraid of them?  The army is not afraid of them at all.  And they're prepared to go out and engage the taleban and no matter where they are.

BEAUPLET:  Sir, thank you very much.  On this last point, we're going to conclude our conversation this morning.  We have had a chance to speak to some of your colleagues on other issues related to any training, any (AUDIO BREAK).  But I must say that having the chance of talking to you this morning and having the view of (AUDIO BREAK) as work with the ANA stand a very variable complement to our previous conversations and it did shed some light on this aspect on what you're doing with the army and in developing and aiding a n and trusted army for the Afghan people.  So thank you very much again for your time.  I know how busy you're down there.  Good luck with your work and have a nice afternoon.

TABBERNOR:  Thank you very much, and thanks very much for your interest in what is going over here, going on here in Afghanistan.  If I can just... just make one last comment.  As I say, I've been here since April last year.  And in this short timeframe that I've been in this country, I've been truly impressed by the country.