Officer in charge of training says Afghan army years away from goal
July 14, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Afghan National Army is about three years away from meeting its goal of about 70,000 troops, said Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, who is in charge of training Afghan security forces.
The Afghan government and international community have agreed that the Afghan National Army should have a ceiling of 70,000 troops, but all sides may decide to revisit the issue, he said.
Right now, the Afghan army has about 30,000 troops and adds about 1,000 more per month, Durbin told reporters on Thursday.
“If you do the math, you can figure about how many months it would take us to get to the 70,000 threshold,” he said.
Durbin said the Afghan army is capable of adding more troops per month but officials believe 1,000 a month is a good level to maintain the quality of the army.
But on Wednesday, Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said that the army cannot secure the country without at least 150,000 troops.
Asked if the Afghan National Army would be able to stand on its own once it reaches 70,000 troops, Durbin offered a qualified yes.
“What we have planned is the ability to equip and train the Afghan National Army so that they would have the ability to conduct independent operations with limited coalition support,” he said.
He said the Afghan National Army has made many strides over the last year, noting that Afghans make up the bulk of troops involved in Operation Mountain Thrust against Taliban insurgents in the south.
But the Afghan army still faces challenges, Durbin said. For example, officials hope to raise the army’s retention rate from 35 percent to 50 percent.
Also Thursday, Durbin said Afghanistan has about 60,000 police officers, but only 37,000 of them are trained and equipped.
The remaining police officers are on the job in cities and in the countryside but lack the equipment they need to be effective, he said.
For example, Afghan police currently only have 2,000 of the 86,000 vehicles they need, he said.