Afghan official sees big hurdles to capable army

Afghan official sees big hurdles to capable army
# 19 January 2011 17:30 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. The Afghan national army has a long way to go before Western forces can hand over responsibility for security in the country, a senior Afghan military official said on Wednesday, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
Brigadier General Sherin Shah said logistics, a shortage of medics, weapons, and a lack of competent police were the biggest obstacles to an independent Afghan security force, and he repeatedly emphasized the youth and inexperience of his forces.
Shah works with British forces in Helmand province, and while he lauded progress in the development of Afghan forces, his comments on the difficulties ahead contrast with highly upbeat British assessments of Afghan military ability.
"Our Afghan National Army troops are totally fresh. We’re young right now ... Plus we need a lot of training, education, supplies, weapons, logistics," Shah said through an interpreter, answering a question about the timeline for the withdrawal of Western forces.
"The ANA is supposed to hand over some areas and checkpoints to Afghan National Police. That’s another obstacle and problem we have in Afghanistan. The ANP needs to be capable," he added, speaking to reporters in London through a satellite link up.
There are some 150,000 NATO-led foreign troops fighting a now more than nine-year war against Taliban insurgents, and the United States, which contributes the bulk of the foreign forces, aims to start withdrawing some troops this summer.
Britain, the second largest contributor, also wants to bring some troops home this year, and both countries aim to hand responsibility for security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, as agreed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai late last year.
Shah said he was still confident Afghan forces could meet that timeline, but declined to be drawn on whether his forces were ready for a decline in Western forces in Helmand this year.
He stressed the need for better logistical support.
"Resupply, I’ll repeat it again. Resupply. Basically engineering, training, medics. We don’t have proper medics."
Southwestern Helmand province is a Taliban stronghold and has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Last year was the deadliest so far for foreign forces in Afghanistan, while thousands more Afghan civilians, soldiers and police have died.
Both Shah and Brigadier James Chiswell, the main British commander in Helmand, said they now had the upper hand, an advantage unlikely to be solely attributed to a traditional winter seasonal lull in insurgent activity, Chiswell said.
"There is a sense here that insurgency is under pressure and examining its options. Not broken, but under pressure," Chiswell said, warning of a tough year ahead nonetheless.