NATO has almost met its target for extra combat troops in Afghanistan but pressed allies this week to meet a shortfall of up to 2,400 people to train Afghan security forces, a raw group of recruits whose ability to work as an effective and credible force is becoming a shaky reality, Reuters reported.
Afghan soldiers and police officers who can handle their own security is a crucial step to allowing U.S. forces to withdraw, but a long list of problems with recruits makes turning them into a self-sufficient group a daunting task for NATO and U.S. trainers.
Drugs, illiteracy, Taliban infiltration, poor equipment and incompetency in general are some of the challenges facing NATO officials trying to revamp the training system.
After eight weeks of training, an average of 5 percent of recruits cannot pass firearms tests. Yet these new recruits are still given a gun and sent out on duty, The New York Times reported.
In a recent YouTube video, an Afghan soldier is shown trying repeatedly and unsuccessfully to do jumping jacks during a training session.
The U.S. Army's Green Berets are currently leading the training effort, CBS News reported. The Berets' traditional role is to train foreign armies, and they are the only arm of the military designated specifically for this purpose.
Much of the training happens not through drills but from active service on the frontline. During one recent operation in an all-night raid in a village used as a base by Taliban fighters, an Afghan soldier accidentally shot one of the American trainers twice, CBS News reported.
The lack of readiness on the part of the police and soldiers should be expected from any new force, said Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, the chief spokesman for the international forces in Afghanistan.
"From a systemic perspective, it shows you these are very young soldiers," he was quoted by the Associated Press.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said almost 70 countries had promised to increase or at least maintain their support for Afghanistan training projects following an international conference in London last week, Reuters reported.
He said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is close to the 40,000 additional soldiers it says it needs for the mission. However, he added, the ISAF is still short on teams to train the soldiers and the police, and if Afghanistan security forces are to grow to the target of 300,000 personnel in 2011, even more trainers will be needed.
NATO said about 2,000-2,400 more foreign trainers are necessary to build Afghan security, Reuters reported.
The U.S. has tried to make significant changes in training problems that lead to nearly a quarter of Afghan officers quitting every year. Yet a major obstacle continues to be that foreign trainers are often unable to agree on a uniform training protocol, The New York Times reported.
Another stumbling block to training Afghan forces has been salary. Police pay is increasing to $165 a month, The New York Times reported. But Taliban insurgents typically make $200 a month, and the new pay is still lower than the cost of living for an average Afghan family. The low pay has resulted in corruption among many officers, The Times quoted NATO officials.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.