Cover Story

The surge within

"The surge within" Continued...

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

But Ferrari admits that mission will extend beyond a U.S. withdrawal phase slated to begin one year from now. "The Afghans won't be able to afford their security forces on their own for many years," he said. "The GDP is not large, and it has a huge unmet social need that the government must address."

After the current "build" phase-with intensified recruitment and training plus pay, equipment, and facilities for an army-Ferrari estimates it will cost $6 billion-$8 billion a year to sustain Afghan forces. The country's GDP stands currently at about $13.5 billion. "It's an enormous amount of money. However, today we have close to 98,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and it costs us about $8 billion a month to have them here. So $8 billion a year versus $8 billion a month-the return on the investment is huge."

But any success, Ferrari noted, depends on improving the Afghan government's legitimacy and fighting corruption-and extends beyond what a fighting force can do: "The goal is to connect the Afghan people to its government. If the people believe in its government, then it will side with the government of Afghanistan rather than the insurgents. You sometimes hear about the U.S. winning hearts and minds, but in the end we are going to leave. The hearts and minds that have to be won are for the Afghan government."

Early on during the tour of the KTMC, Lt. Col. Loos, who serves as its senior coalition adviser, declares himself to be an optimist. It's his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, and changes are everywhere. "I'm spending a lot of time with the Afghans this time, and they give me hope. And then there's the traffic and the commerce. . . . Intuitively if there's development and people driving around and setting up vegetable markets and bazaars, there has to be some amount of confidence that security is better," he said.

Programs like the one at KMTC have sprung up this year around the country, including in hot zones like Kandahar (where two coalition police trainers, including one American, were killed in June)-and they extend beyond the prototypical young, all-male, warrior-class corps.

The Afghan Army's first class of female officers since 2002 is scheduled to graduate from a 20-week training course in September. After testing 44 candidates, the course is down to 29. Not surprisingly, it's faced challenges: The program operates in a completely segregated section of an ANA officer's school in Kabul, and the women have no contact with male counterparts. Many of the women lacked officer candidate skills, some even the equivalency of a high-school education and basic literacy. One I interviewed was only 17 years old, (though the ANA advertised the program for 18- to 35-year-olds) and all came into the program struggling with low self-esteem-natural victims of a society that has treated most women as property.

"We wonder if they are going to be integrated into the military," said drill sergeant Janice Luller, who, along with seven other U.S. female reservists, volunteered to spend six months in Afghanistan to jump-start women's training.

Half of the women in this new program are married and some have children. They anticipate administrative jobs or working with other women in the military, but don't know where they will be assigned. Most said they received family approval to join but don't tell neighbors and friends what they're doing for fear they could become targets of militants.

Luller said all have improved their skills and morale, and most say they enjoy physical training as well as class work. "Seeing what they are up against, and seeing that they are the first class in a male-dominated society, it's my vision that they feel confident and strong at the end of this, that they don't have to bow down to men who have not worked as hard as they have," she said.

Another experimental program run by the KMTC is training chaplain officers. The first 10-week course graduated 26 officers on July 24. Their task is to provide "Islamic religious support" to Afghan soldiers, which, according to Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Frederick McGuffin, who supervises training, means giving moral counsel and "countering the message of the insurgents." McGuffin said the ANA's goal is to graduate a class of 30-60 officers every 10 weeks.

McGuffin, ordained by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and on his first tour in Afghanistan, said, "I advise and make sure they are going down the right trail." Courses involve training in "Islamic values taught in a moderate fashion," he said, along with literacy and computers. McGuffin believes it's a crucial part of counterinsurgency training, and imams (who actually teach the classes but are closely screened and known to officers, he said) emphasize "that the Quran doesn't teach things the insurgency is saying."


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