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Watchdog: Afghan Forces Won't Be Ready for US Withdrawal

Reid Davenport

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan's military and police aren't on track to
meet President Barack Obama's 18-month timetable for starting to
withdraw U.S. troops, according to a report released on Monday by an
independent watchdog group.

Despite assurances last week by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the newly
appointed U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, that the Afghan National
Security Forces are making significant progress in anticipation of
Obama's July 2011 deadline, the Special Inspector General for Afghan
Reconstruction said that the benchmarks that are being used to assess
the security forces are misleading.

challenges affect U.S. and Coalition assessment efforts, including
security conditions, mentor shortages, and inadequate training," the
report said. "Further, systemic (Afghan security force) deficiencies
have undermined efforts to develop unit capabilities."

independent, effective Afghan military and police force are key for
U.S. troops to begin their departure from a nearly nine year conflict
that's cost more than 1,100 American lives, it said.

The report's criticisms of Afghan military training range from logistics problems to drug abuse and illiteracy.

report points to shortcomings in the Capability Milestone system that's
used to assess the progress of training Afghan forces. The inspector
general found that the system, implemented in 2005, has unreliable
assessments, inconsistent results, outdated information and
disincentives for overall improvement.

"(The) ratings have not
provided consistent and reliable measures of progress toward the goal
of developing self-sustaining security forces for Afghanistan," the
report said.

The Pentagon had no comment.

According to the
report, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and
the Defense Department have stated their concerns about the rating
system. The International Joint Committee said it plans to implement a
new system, which the special inspector general's report said will to
be more consistent and reliable.

"Without such measures, decision
makers will not have a clear understanding of the extent to which
progress is being made in developing Afghan security forces capable of
independently conducting operations, and ultimately securing
Afghanistan," the report said.

Last week, Petraeus testified that
the Afghan National Security Forces are on their way to securing their
country in accordance with the 18-month withdrawal timetable.

security forces are now on track to meet their targeted end-strength
objectives by the end of this year, based on improvements that have
been made in recruiting and in reducing attrition," Petraeus said.

the 65,000-troop increase since January 2009, the Afghan combat
missions have demonstrated a "gradual but important progress", Petraeus

Petraeus estimated the size of the Afghan National Security Forces at about 231,000.

to U.S. military statistics, however, the goal for the number of Afghan
trainees for October 2011 isn't close to being met. The target is to
have approximately 300,000 Afghans training for the police and military
by that time. Currently, there are roughly 224,000 in training.

will testify Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which
is part of his confirmation as the replacement for Gen. Stanley
McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal was ousted
by Obama last week and announced his retirement from the Army Monday.

On the Web:

Report: Actions Needed to Improve the Reliability of Afghan Security Force Assessment

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