November 17, 2010

I hear Mazar in spring is even nicer than Kabul in winter

Matthew Fisher continues to perform the sin of actual journalism by trying to pin down people on where Canadian troops in Afghanistan post-2011 will be going and what they'll be doing. This was telling:

As Canada is insisting that most of its trainers will be in or near the capital, which is already awash with trainers from other countries, there is immense interest in what specific training tasks Canada is to be assigned by NATO and how its trainers will be shoehorned into already-crowded bases in the capital.

If only these answers were on the web somewhere... oh, yes, they are*. Now, first off, it seems I was off on my previous SWAG of the "behind the wire" strength of NTM-A, but not by a huge number: total current planned number according to Fig. 13 is about 1800, with the hope of rising to 2800 over the next year. Assuming most of that increase were Canadian in the end, that would mean we would be increasing the strength of the trainer force single-handedly by about 50%.

But where are the jobs, actually, and what would they be doing? Ah, for that you'll have to click on the link.

The key figure here is figure 14, which breaks down the 442 most critical deficiencies by location and trade. Cross-referencing that with the training locations on pages 30 and 31 gives, as a provincial breakdown:

Kabul: 184
Herat: 56
Kandahar: 48
Balkh: 46
Nangarhar: 31
Laghman: 23
Helmand: 18
Farah: 15
Jawzjan: 15
Bamyan: 6

Put another way (splitting by ISAF Regions):

Kabul: 184
West: 71
South: 66
North: 61
East: 60

The difficulties with any kind of a mission that involves small detachments spanning the width and breadth of Afghanistan should be obvious. One could argue probably that many or most of the northern and eastern positions were supportable by a Canadian command/support element in Kabul, but the western positions would likely not be as viable, and the southern ones could create political difficulties.

By type of trainer, the critical shortages break down:

Police trainers : 160
Air force: 64
Medical: 72
Army signals: 33
Other army: 113

If that kind of breakdown persists, it's going to be difficult to answer the call with an existing unit, like an infantry battalion. Sure, combat arms soldiers can cover Afghan police training easily enough, but 38% of the shortfall are in specialist trades not found in the line units.

Put the two together, and the demand for what could be readily offered becomes rather small. So in the Kabul area, there were only 106 critical jobs in police and army training that could be filled by "regular" soldiers as of the NTM-A annual report, dated three weeks ago... far less than what Canada is now offering.

(What's not defined are the locations and trades of the 450+ "non-critical" positions. One should expect a significant number of those will be in logistics, though, where according to the NTM-A report, exactly 0 (out of an undefined total number) have so far been secured.)

*I'm grateful to ANSF freelance researcher Anand Choudhuri for the pointer.

Posted by BruceR at 11:15 PM