Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I appreciate the questions in the comments. I’ll try to answer them as best I can. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I do have opinions, which albeit are based on a small part of the country and one particular unit. I’m quite certain what I’ve seen is representative of the country as a whole, but I could be wrong. At any rate, I’ll throw my two cents out there and people can take it or leave it. If anyone has facts that refute what I have to say, I’d be interested to hear them. Frankly, I’m not sure there’s anything I would enjoy more than having my opinions on the ANA attacked by someone who hasn’t lived with them and been on the ground in combat with them.
I’ve actually asked various solders in the ANA why they joined, and they all without fail answered that they did it to fight the Taliban and because they like the soldier’s life. In a few cases this may be true, but in my opinion the main reason an Afghan joins the ANA is money. The ANA pays relatively well, about $180/month with free food, a place to lay your head at night, and a good amount of leave. Moreover, few job opportunities exist in Afghanistan. If the army is the one hiring, then you take what you can get. We’ve seen an uptick in recruiting for the US armed forces over the past year, which I’m pretty sure is a result of the down economy, not a sudden uptick in patriotism or adventurism on the part of our young people.
Regardless of anyone’s motivation for joining the ANA, the important thing is how they act when they’re here. If these guys were serving in the ANA because they really wanted to be here and not for a paycheck, I’m confident we’d see a little more motivation on their part. Teaching class to them is roughly akin to teaching kindergarteners, and that goes for the officers too, not just the soldiers.
The ANA can often talk a good game, but where the rubber meets the road, they’re usually not making things happen. There is usually a large disconnect between what the ANA commanders say they want to do and what actually happens on the ground. Either the commander on the ground is unable or unwilling to make a decision to react to recent events, or excuses will be made for inactivity and blame passed around for long enough until the issue is forgotten.
So what is the ANA really? A jobs program. It’s a necessary jobs program, and a necessary part of the country, but at this point we’re not getting much return on our investment. We baby the ANA and don’t utilize them the way we should. Of course, on our level we can’t tell the ANA what operations to do or not do, but somewhere up on high those demands can be made…after all, we’re paying all the bills here. So long as we let them get away with it, the ANA are more than happy to sit back and watch the US forces do most of the work. I’ve made all these points before so I won’t rehash them anymore. Suffice it to say, I’m starting to believe local militias are the way to go. Local militias are local, and as such have a vested interest in the security of their area. The ANA come from all over the country…their vested interest is in their own security. Since the ANA leadership has little sense of duty or will to make their soldiers work, the result is an army that often does little more than occupy a base and turn food into excrement.
But they're getting better.