Afghan training makes gains, although war struggles

KABUL, Afghanistan — Long a lagging priority, the plan to produce many more highly trained Afghan troops is moving this fall at a rapid pace. Two main training sites have become bustling bases, packed with trainers and recruits, and there is a sense among the officers that they are producing better soldiers than before.

One of the training sites, the Kabul Military Training Center, used principally by the Afghan army, has been graduating 1,400 newly trained soldiers every two weeks, as the Obama administration, eager to show progress in a slow-going war, has devoted more trainers and money to the effort.

A second site, the Central Training Center, is used by new police recruits.

NATO officials hope the clear changes in the training, both in output and atmosphere, are grounds for a measure of optimism in a frustrating war that has provoked increasing opposition.

The ratio of instructors to students has gone from one for every 79 trainees in 2009 to one for every 29, officers say, suggesting that the new soldiers and police officers are getting more attention. The soldiers are paid better and desert less often, officials say.

New Afghan infantry battalions, each with roughly 800 soldiers, are regularly leaving the capital for service in the war, sometimes making two or three battalions a month.

The question now is whether these forces will allow NATO and the Afghan government to reverse the insurgency's momentum and begin reducing the Western presence in the country.

Col. John G. Ferrari, a deputy commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, spoke of an "inevitability factor," in which local security forces, in theory and if trained properly, rise in quantity, skill and state of equipment, sharply tilting the war in the government's favor.

In June 2009, after more than seven years of war, the United States had helped Afghanistan field a combined army and police force of about 170,000. Since then, the combined force has grown by half that size again — by more than 86,000 troops. Within a year, the combined forces are projected to grow by 50,000 more.

8 feared dead in cargo plane crash

A cargo plane contracted by a U.S.-based company crashed into mountains east of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, with initial reports saying all eight people aboard were killed, an Afghan official said.

The plane was flying from Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan, when it went down east of the capital about 8 p.m., Kabul airport director Mohammad Yaqub Rassuli said.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, and the plane's destination was unclear.

The plane was owned by TransAfrik of the United Arab Emirates and was under contract from the U.S.-based company National Air Cargo, NATO spokesman James Judge said.

Associated Press

Afghan training makes gains, although war struggles 10/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 11:03pm]

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