The Afghan National Army After ISAF

Posted on: 06-06-2016

As casualties mounted to dramatic levels in 2015, even according to official figures that are most likely underestimated, the Afghan National Army (ANA) has for the first time begun experiencing serious problems in recruitment. The army also experienced a resurgence of ghost soldiering (soldiers who are listed as being on active duty, but who do not serve)—a problem which had been largely contained by 2010. The units most exposed in the fighting were seriously depleted and under-strength by November. The withdrawal of the mentors/advisers from the ANA tactical units in 2014 exposed a range of weaknesses in logistical capabilities, planning, procurement, equipment maintenance and administration. The resulting paradox is an ANA less mobile than the insurgents, despite the fact that it remains more or less in control of the main highways of the country. Despite the huge amounts of military hardware it has received, the ANA still mostly deploys to battle in unarmoured Ford Rangers.

The tactical performance of the ANA in the midst of battle is more difficult to evaluate because reliable information is hard to come by, but sources within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the ANA themselves concur that there is a very serious leadership problem. Appointments to senior positions are still heavily influenced by political interference, often resulting in the appointment of incompetent commanders. The insurgents have gained the initiative and the ANA has not been able to put together any serious efforts to reclaim it. As a result of all these factors, morale within the ANA is in decline. Reforming the ANA in the middle of an ongoing and escalating conflict is clearly a very difficult task, not least because of the political vetoes of factions, parties and powerful individuals.