ANA Turnover

by Dafydd on 11/25/2009 · 21 comments

Central to plans of stabilization is the Afghan National Army (ANA). While I acknowledge there are many brave men signed up, and the ANA is almost always compared favourably with the Police (ANP), the ANA does have significant problems.

Turnover of its soldiers is pretty significant among these problems.

The manpower target for the ANA is 134 000 (Oct 2010) & 240 000 some time thereafter. These are big numbers for a country the size of Afghanistan (population of around 12 million – that makes 2% of the whole Afghan population a soldier).

This article (Asia Times) provides a pretty detailed and convincing analysis.

Two points stand out-

1) US DoD counts of combat soldiers have been subject to changes which (intentionally or otherwise) are likely to mislead a casual reader into thinking recruitment is going more successfully than it actually is
2) Analysis of the turnover rate leads to the conclusion that authorities, without some sort of fundamental change in circumstances, will not be able to get more than 100 000 combat ready troops.

This really does not bode well for an exit strategy.


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{ 21 comments }

Prithvi November 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Um, pardon me for being a humorless pedant, but I was under the impression that the Afghan population was considerably larger than what you have stated.

According to this UN estimate from earlier this year:

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2008/wpp2008_text_tables.pdf

it is actually nearing thirty million

Dafydd November 26, 2009 at 4:48 am

Errr, you are right. Down to about 1%. This is still a large number (equivalent to a US military approaching 3 million).

I don’t see how Afghanistan will pay for that.

anan November 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

Prithvi, my best estimate of Afghanistan’s population is 33 million.

Dafydd, GIRoA annual revenues = approximately $600 million/year. GIRoA steady state expenditure = more than $6,000 million/year.

More than 90% of all Afghan gov’t type expenditure is paid for by international grants.

I think that the international community should pledge $250 billion over 20 years in grants for Afghanistan, plus about $50 billion in loans guaranteed by the international community that the Afghans have to repay on their own dime. When you calculate the numbers, it is hard to see how Afghanistan can survive on less.

Ignore the ANSF for a moment. Just look at the education system. I think it will need $60 billion over the next 20 years. That is 5 times the current annual revenues of the GIRoA. Remember that Afghanistan has gone from about a thousand freshman in college in 2001 to 45,000 freshman in college now. The number in primary school has jumped from between 1 million and 2 million, to over 7 million now.

I am troubled that Obama and other international leaders are not informing their citizens about this long term expense, and finding ways to pay for it.

“I wonder if the good folks stateside (or in the UK, for that matter) would accept a Saudi or Gulf banking presence spreading throughout Afghanistan, or if the American/UK investors would just think “BCCI!” and freak out.” Asher, I am pretty sure that they are being begged to operate in Afghanistan. Note that most ANSF are now paid by direct deposit. They are trying to move to 100%. The MoD and MoI decide what banks to use, not the international community.

Prithvi, the US fields 2 million. I don’t think counting the reserves is appropriate.

The US Army has 10 division headquarters, of which one is stuck in Korea. The US Marines have 3 division HQs, of which one is stuck in Korea. Stuck means stuck, since the South Koreans have paid their bills for decades and would throw a hissy fit if they were withdrawn. {The US has tried to do so in the past and been rebuffed by the South Koreans. For that matter, the Japanese who have also paid for the US forces based in their country for decades would throw a hissy fit if the division HQs were withdrawn from South Korea, although they let the US deploy the division HQs based in Japan.} The US has 11 deployable division HQs.

By comparison, the Indian Army has 34 division HQs. The Chinese Army might have 54 division HQs.

“arm local villages and help them create indigenous militias. Obviously this weakens Kabul’s authority since they can’t control these people, but it seems like the US has lost faith in Karzai and won’t really care.” The international community dismantled the village, tribal and warlord militias that fought the Taliban and until this year did not allow new ones to be created.

I have seen no evidence that ISAF or the international community in general have lost confidence in the ANA. In fact the opposite seems true. Most are impressed with the ANA. The ANA has won almost every company level engagement with the Taliban since its formation.

In fact, several countries including the US have agreed to sharply increase their commitment to the ANSF in recent weeks.

“If the US can’t control a centralized army to any reasonable standard” America has never controlled the ANA (at least since 2003 when the ANA first began to form.) The ANA commanding generals and President Karzai control the ANA. They jealously guard control over their forces. It is important to remember how little influence ISAF and the international community have over the ANA. A large part–probably the most important part–of McChrystal’s job is getting buy in for his strategy from the ANA, ANP and President Karzai.

Dafydd, I am continually amazed at how ignorant and ill informed the public discourse on the ANSF is. Why didn’t Gareth Porter ask someone who knew about the ANA before writing this article?

The ANA’s AWOL rate as of early this month was 5% over the last year. Add to this a 4% wounded and death rate, and a two third reenlistment rate (after the expiration of 3 year contracts.) About 21% leave the ANA every year. This assumes that the average uninjured ANA soldier serves in the ANA for 9 years. Very few armies in the world have soldiers who serve an average of 9 years in their army.

Note that 21% leaving the ANA every year and the ANA’s annual training through put of 46,000 per year mean that the ANA’s long term steady state is 219,000. {I can’t paste riemann sums here, but you can calculate this on your own.}

The ANA needs an annual through put of 50,400 to maintain a steady state ANA of 240,000. The ANA will be higher than that by late 2010.

Note that CSTC-A/NTM-A projections are implicitly for reenlistment rates above 2/3rds, which is off the charts. The big surprise with the ANA is how high the reenlistment rate and how low the AWOL rate actually are.

The number of ANA on the books have declined by about 5,000 over the past 5 months. This appears to be a one time much needed housecleaning. The fact that the ANA fired so many is a positive sign. Commanding MG Mohammad Raheem Wardak of 201st ANA mentioned tashkil or rosters was one of the two biggest problems in the ANA. A lot of excess names have been removed. Now they need to reward most mid grade officers with early retirement and promote a lot of lieutenants.

Dafydd November 27, 2009 at 5:04 am

OK, so to get close to the target ANA levels, annual recruitment needs to be over the current number of college entrants.

And foreigners need to pay for it.

I am a bit unclear as to how achieveable you think these numbers are. On the one had your post has “The ANA needs an annual through put of 50,400 to maintain a steady state ANA of 240,000. The ANA will be higher than that by late 2010.”. Then later “Note that CSTC-A/NTM-A projections are implicitly for reenlistment rates above 2/3rds, which is off the charts.”

Anyhow, this is on top of other massive spending commitments which, as you note, the Afghan govt. has no hope of paying for on its own.

The message to the public in ISAF countries is pretty clear. It is “just a little while longer, then Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own feet”. I find this errily reminiscent of the Iraq war “paying for itself”.

I can’t see the public wanting to stump up the cash. I can’t see the Chinese wanting to bankroll the effort. If the Gulf Arabs step in (after having bailed out Dubai), half the education system will consist of Wahabi madrassas.

There doesn’t seem to be great scope for positive outcomes.

anan November 27, 2009 at 5:46 am

Dafydd, the CSTC-A/NTM-A October Enduring Ledger (let us assume they were accurate as of the end of October, 2009, even though this wasn’t specifically specified) provided the following CSTC-A/NTM-A projections:
-current ANA = 95,000
-ANA projected strength on 10.2010 = 134,000
-ANA expects to put 46,000 through training between now and 10.2010.
-CSTC-A/NTM-A only expects to lose 7,000 over the next 12 months in wounded, AWOL (which currently is 5%), and those who choose not to reenlist.

Basically, even if the reenlisted rate were 100%, this target can only be met if the ANA only takes 2,000 in casualties. In practice ANA casualties are likely to be more than 2,000.

“I can’t see the public wanting to stump up the cash. I can’t see the Chinese wanting to bankroll the effort. ” I can. The question all of us need to ask is how we would like WMD attacks against our population centers? Do we really want to take the risk of a destabilized Pakistan? Granted the risk to Europe and China is arguably greater than the risk to America. Granted to risk to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and India is arguably greater than the risk to Europe and China. However, if there is a WMD attack on America, can President Obama say with a straight face . . . “I was trying to save money in Afghanistan/Pakistan . . . I made a mistake, sorry”?

Do any of us have any illusions about what Al Qaeda, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed, the Shiite hating trio (Lashkar e Jhanvi/Sipah e Sahaba/Jundullah), Haqqani, TTP, the Uzbek duo (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan [IMU], Uzbek Islamic Jihad Union [IJU]), Chechan Takfiris, Brigade 313, Ilyas Kashmiri, Tehrik-i-Taliban [TTP] are?

Dafydd November 27, 2009 at 7:41 am

Well, either President Obama raises taxes to finance this effort, cuts spending in other areas, or asks China to bankroll it.

My understanding of domestic US politics is not extensive, but I am pretty sure the US electorate is unlikely to vote for tax rises and/or spending cuts for this purpose.

On that, only time will tell.

While the groups you mention are all pretty fanatical and prepared to cause death with little or no compunction, none of what you say addresses the substantive issue of whether continued operations in Afghanistan make WMD attacks on the US or Europe more likely, less likely or neither.

Bobby November 26, 2009 at 4:58 am

I don’t think we’ve ever known how Afghanistan was going to pay for its security forces, much less any of the public services essential to its growth, development, and stability. My guess is it becomes- much like several African countries- an internationally-supported state, that other countries have to keep afloat.

On the ANA, as I remember of them in 2003 and 2004, the biggest retention issue was the lack of any financial system in Afghanistan– no banks, no checks, no direct deposit, no Western Union to ensure that the the Afghan soldiers’ paychecks get back to their family who need the money. Afghan soldiers drawn from the far-flung provinces with the lure of $55 or $70 per month had to trek back for three, four, five, or more days each month in order to hand-carry the cash back to their families. This process invariably led to AWOL and desertion issues. But the alternative- for their families not to receive the money- was unacceptable to the Afghan soldiers. ISAF may have addressed this by creating regionally-based units, or creating a reliable courier system, or establishing functional banks (I left Afghanistan in 2004), but this was how I remember the problem five years ago.

–Bobby

Asher Kohn November 26, 2009 at 9:06 am

This is interesting, Bobby. I don’t know which banks, precisely, are working in Afghanistan, particular in the whole of Afghanistan, not just Kabul and maybe Herat and Mazar-i Sharif, but I know that they darn well better be Islamic Banks in order to be actually, well, used.

I know that FINCA and Aga Khan both have microfinance footprints in Afghanistan, but I wonder if the good folks stateside (or in the UK, for that matter) would accept a Saudi or Gulf banking presence spreading throughout Afghanistan, or if the American/UK investors would just think “BCCI!” and freak out.

Prithvi November 26, 2009 at 7:09 pm

But yeah, otherwise, I’d agree with Dafydd. While the US, if reserves are counted, puts into the field just slightly less than 3 million, for Afghanistan to field a force of relative size is at an even higher cost than first appears.

Obviously, few countries can spend what the US does, even on individual soldiers. And the US benefits from economies of scale to field an equipped force of that size, supported by a massive technological and industrial base, which overlap in the defense industrial complex (not using this pejoratively, it’s of course literally that.)

So, without being externally subsidized for untold years, there’s no way that a centralized military commanded from Kabul could field such a proportion of troops.

What the Americans might intend to do, if they’re not moving in that direction already, is to arm local villages and help them create indigenous militias. Obviously this weakens Kabul’s authority since they can’t control these people, but it seems like the US has lost faith in Karzai and won’t really care.

AJK November 26, 2009 at 11:43 pm

If the US can’t control a centralized army to any reasonable standard, why should they be able to control militias instead? It just creates a bigger bureaucracy on the American end of thing without actually getting closer to an endgame.

I can’t believe that’ll help, but I can’t believe that’ll stop the beltway, either.

Prithvi November 27, 2009 at 2:21 am

I meant a centralized military force controlled by the Karzai government or its successors. I don’t think the US is so deluded as to imagine it can control the Afghan army in a political sense, other than directing tactical operations or indirectly exerting influence through US logistical support.

I actually don’t think militias would be a bureaucratic headache for the US, just because it seems that several smaller, more acountable and regional bureaucracies are easier to keep track of then a larger central bureaucracy in Kabul that just seems to swallow up foreign donors’ money.

Of course, I am just predicting this without really researching it could turn out to be a terrible idea if it’s even feasible. But I do honestly believe that the US military will try to engage as much as possible with the Afghan government at a local level without having to deal with the central government in Kabul.

anan November 27, 2009 at 2:38 am

Prithvi, as you know, the US and international community did not permit armed tribal militias until this year. In some areas, McChrystal appears to be going in this direction. But for this to work, McChrystal needs backing from President Karzai and the ANSF. Otherwise Karzai will order the ANSF to disarm the tribal militias. Nothing can work without Karzai’s buy in.

Getting Karzai’s buy in is essential for McChrystal. Remember that neither ISAF nor the ANA can detain or arrest Afghans. Only the ANP can do that.

“US military will try to engage as much as possible with the Afghan government at a local level without having to deal with the central government in Kabul.” They will try. Suspect a lot of the foreign aid will flow throw district and provincial governments versus Kabul. But on security matters, they are stuck with Karzai.

“I meant a centralized military force controlled by the Karzai government or its successors.” By any reasonable definition, the ANA already fits this description. The ANA has quite a bit of capacity. What the ANA lacks is the resources to provide security in all of Afghanistan simultaneously.

Prithvi November 27, 2009 at 2:22 am

sorry, I meant “engage as much as possible with the Afghan PEOPLE at a local level”

Prithvi November 27, 2009 at 2:58 am

I apologize, I hadn’t read the middle segment in your earlier post.

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

I guess 13-13 mln is a population available for army service.

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

So many acronyms. Someone should publish ABA (Acronym Book of Afghanistan).

anan November 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

Acronyms are listed here: http://www.longwarjournal.org/multimedia/ANSF%20OOBpage2-Definitions.pdf

If any acronym definitions are missing, do say.

“13-13 mln” Don’t understand.

Dafydd, the ANSF are the mortal enemies of the Taliban and their extremist allies. As long as the ANSF gives them a hell of a fight over the next many years, this is a form of victory against the Taliban and extremists. For this to happen, the ANSF needs $120 billion in international grants over the next 20 years (inclusive of the ANAAC.)

However, if the international community merely gives the Afghans military grants, Afghanistan will win this war, and then be a heavily militarized society with an enormous budget deficits as far as the eye can see.

To increase Afghan GDP over the long run so that GIRoA revenue can begin to approach GIRoA expenditure (even GIRoA expenditure minus the ANSF), the Afghans will need another $180 billion in grants and loans. I don’t see how the Afghans can service more than $50 billion in new debt. This means $130 billion in grants is needed.

This isn’t a huge amount compared to the cost of keeping so many international troops in Afghanistan or the cost of WMD attacks against large global population centers.

Farhad December 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Afghanistan doesn’t need a large army. Afghanistan needs a small army of illiterate, trained and properly compensated men and women. And they need good leadership at every level. After 8 years, only 120 officers have graduated.

There needs to be an ROTC program within Afghan high schools to attract young, talented students to join. But there has to be clear benefits for them to join the program.

And they need to establish some military high schools as well.

And as more Afghan officers graduate, they should further their training abroad.

And that goes the same for the Afghan National Police.

You have to invest in the youth, which is a failure on the Afghan government. If some of these plans would have been executed 8 years ago, you would have had a young, illiterate and determined Afghan security force.

AJK December 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I can’t imagine that the Afghan education system is nearly where it needs to be in order to create an ROTC corps. There is not nearly the sort of centrality of education and logistics that would make that possible.

And the funny thing is, the more folks want to do the whole “arm the tribes” and militias bit, which may be gaining ground, the less centrality and the less likelihood of an Afghan ROTC.

I personally don’t see that sort of central state happening in Afghanistan, but a lot of people who know a lot more than me think that I’m wrong. Even them, though, would likely be hard-pressed to forsee ROTC education.

Prithvi December 2, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I’m sorry to be such a nitpicker, you really mean literate, right?

Farhad December 7, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Prithvi: Yes, I mean literate.

AJK: You have to build the frame work so such schools– even if it isn’t at the level of ROTC in the US. And You have to recruit at an early age. Afghanistan established its first military high school over a hundred years ago. Why can’t it do it again?

The problem is that there is very little vision in the Afghan government, and there has been little investment on children their education. But then again, there hasn’t been that much aid from the International community in this area either.

The more you arm the militias, the higher chance you will have for another civil war to happen.

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