KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO’s leaders have for years asked member nations to ante up more troops, aircraft and other military assets for its war in Afghanistan.

But six years into the war against the Taliban and other insurgents, what are most needed now are trainers, according to the alliance’s top military commander.

There is no shortage of Afghans asking to become soldiers and police officers, said Gen. Bantz J. Craddock. But there is a lack of training teams to embed with raw Afghan recruits and help turn them into stand-alone forces.

“We (NATO force) are short maneuver battalions, we’re short intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, we’re short enablers, helicopters, lift,” Craddock said.

“But the best investment we can make right now is to train the Afghan national security forces to get a face out and to take over their own security requirements.”

Craddock and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Sheffer and their entourages visited Afghanistan Wednesday through Friday.

There are about 47,000 foreign forces deployed to Afghanistan, including approximately 22,000 U.S. troops.

The Afghan National Army currently numbers about 41,000 troops, with a goal of 78,000, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bartelle, the senior noncommissioned officer for NATO’s Command Allied Operations.

Those forces, he said, vary in ability from raw to ready.

Training of the Afghan police forces, which would handle local law enforcement, is going more slowly, Bartelle said. Training both the army and police, he said, takes a special talent.

“It’s an acquired skill,” Bartelle said. “And not necessarily based on an individual’s proficiency in their (military specialty).

“It takes an ability to relay information clearly and concisely, so that the individual receiving it translates it into action.”

A training team can consist of 10 to 20 people, sometimes more, and its makeup is the same as a military unit: one commander, several junior officers, and a variety of senior and junior sergeants and other enlisted troops.

The trainers pair off with their Afghan counterparts and train them in tasks ranging from commanding a military unit to firing a rifle straight.

Good training teams are not readily available, Craddock said, even from the U.S. military, and especially not from units based in Europe. Trainer-candidates would typically be removed from their units and assembled into a team, then deployed to Afghanistan.

“Those type of leaders by and large are not available in U.S. forces in Europe, because U.S. forces in Europe are either deployed, preparing to deploy, or are returning from deployment and in their dwell (non-deployable) time,” Craddock said.

Craddock proposed a simple-sounding solution to lessen the shortage of trainers.

“We need 26 more teams between now and this time next year, and there are 26 (NATO) nations,” Craddock said. “If each nation would give one more … then we would have filled up the need and we would, I think, be able to generate greater Afghan (security) participation.”

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