Six months after US missiles started striking Kabul, the Pentagon
is trying to build a new, unified Afghan national army as a crucial
component of its "end game" in Afghanistan.
Determined to prevent US troops from becoming bogged down in a
peacekeeping role (as in Bosnia), yet also rejecting a replay of the
abrupt and destabilizing US disengagement from Afghanistan in the
late 1980s, Pentagon officials see an Afghan army as essential to
the long-term aim of securing the country from terrorist groups.
An Afghan military, a border patrol, and a police force will
ultimately take over the US role, providing "a reasonably stable
environment so that the Taliban and Al Qaeda [don't] come back in
and seize control or start training terrorists again, or doing
things that we went in to stop them from doing," Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld said Monday.
The Pentagon plans to dispatch 150 special forces troops this
month to begin training a professional Afghan military force that
would bolster the government against both civil strife and terrorist
incursions. US-taught Afghan military officers could take over the
training as early as the end of this year, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
"In the end, ultimately the Afghan people are going to have to
provide for their own security," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The plan to deploy American troops not as fighters, but as
counter-terrorism trainers, is emerging as a prime military strategy
for destroying terrorist safe havens - not only in Afghanistan, but
also, for example, in the Philippines, Georgia, and Yemen, US
"America will actively prepare other nations for the battles
ahead," Rumsfeld said recently. "Our goal is to train and equip
forces in selected countries that want to help combat terror in
Later this month, for example, 180 US military advisers will
begin arriving in Georgia to train four battalions of the former
Soviet republic's Army to fight suspected terrorists hiding in the
Pankisi Gorge. In Yemen, more than 100 American troops will begin
arriving this month to help train and equip Yemeni special forces to
prevent what US officials say may be efforts by Osama bin Laden's Al
Qaeda terrorist network to regroup there. About 160 US special
forces soldiers are also training and advising the Philippine Army
in battling the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on the southern
Philippine island of Basilan.
The strategy of building proxy antiterror forces in trouble spots
aims to insure that US forces aren't stretched too thin, while also
minimizing what US officials say are local sensitivities over an
American military presence.
However, the effort takes time and money, and it has drawbacks -
including concern that proxy forces are unlikely to replicate US
goals and capabilities.
Starting from scratch
Nowhere are the challenges of this strategy more pronounced than
in Afghanistan, where the US and coalition allies are starting from
scratch to cobble together a cohesive army, a border patrol, and a
police force, experts say. …