Army of the Imagination?

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside. The guest contributor elected to remain anonymous.

Today, Meteor Blades of the Daily Kos wrote of the story NBC broke last night about a government report showing the lack of development of the Afghani army, despite the claims that it is becoming a successful fighting force.

Here are some of the most stunning parts of the post (these are quotes from the NBC Broadcast):

The 25-page study obtained by NBC News says senior Afghan commanders are, quote, “not at war. Many ANA leaders work short days, are often absent and place personal gain above national survival.” The report says Afghan troops simply aren’t leading the fight, but remain dependent on US forces, and show few signs of wanting to take off the training wheels. But what’s striking about the report is that it goes to the heart of President Obama’s argument about the war. When announcing the surge, the president said Afghan forces must be trained and equipped quickly, so American troops can return home. But the report’s section on the Afghan army’s personnel says, “Corruption, nepotism and untrained, unmotivated personnel make success all but impossible.”

Richard Engel (NBC News):

To understand the context of this: THE main mission of the United States Army, all of the different forces that are there, is to train the Afghan security forces so that American forces can ultimately leave. That is THE No. 1 priority. The reason 30,000 extra troops are going there is to try and create enough security so that an Afghan Army can be built. I was told this by numerous commanders. No. 1 priority.

This report says that that priority is facing serious, serious problems and the military knows it.

As the post notes, the coalition claims that 90,000 troops have been trained in Afghanistan since 2001 for the Afghan National Army (ANA), yet no one can find this army anywhere!

Perhaps the biggest problem with the realization that no army exists is because President Obama wants to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, when it was estimated that the ANA would be able to take care of the country without the US’s help. But if there really is no such army, then how can the US army fully expected to leave by 2011? The leaked report says that it “cannot take a year to fix this problem” – so if we can’t fix this problem in the time frame already established, are we destined to stay there longer than we expected automatically? What can we do to fix this problem?

The better question is why is the US increasing troops to Afghanistan in the first place, if the main reason was to help train those in the ANA, which is now shown to be essentially fictional? It seems like there is an underlying plan to delay leaving the country for as long as it can be managed. While I don’t know why, maybe one reason is just for the US to have military forces in that part of the world, somewhat similar to having a watchdog in the region. Or maybe it’s because Afghanistan shares it’s Eastern border with Pakistan, where some believe Bin Laden is hiding. Or maybe there really is a genuine interest in making sure that Afghanistan gets up onto it’s feet.

Whatever the reason, the discovery that the ANA doesn’t actually exist certainly doesn’t help the Obama Administration at this crucial point, as it tries to convince the world that it’s doing the right thing by increasing troops there.

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