With the replacement of General Stanley McChrystal as head of US forces in Afghanistan by his commanding officer, General David Petraeus, the fallout from McChrystal’s multiple failures continues. McChrystal has subsequently announced his intention to retire from the military, but today’s Washington Post reports on an investigation by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, exposing the grim reality behind the failed efforts by McChrystal and his team in "training" Afghan forces.

The image below was posted on the ISAFMedia Flickr stream on June 27:


The caption provided reads:

Special Forces Soldiers trained over 300 Afghanistan Civil Order Police Soldiers on zeroing their AK-47 rifles, gave a refresher course on Entry Control Points, and instructed the soldiers on proper search procedures. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carmen Cheney)

Yet, as the Washington Post reports on the inspector general report:

The U.S. military has systematically overstated or failed to adequately measure the capabilities of Afghan security forces, whose performance is key to the Obama administration’s exit strategy for the war, according to a new government audit.


The report’s principal focus is the rating system used since 2005 to measure the extent to which individual Afghan security units are capable of fighting on their own. According to U.S. figures at the end of March, only 23 percent of the Afghan army and 12 percent of the police drew top ratings.

The system, which counted the quantity of troops and equipment rather than quality of effort, was deeply flawed, the report said, and the number of capable units was probably lower. In one top-rated police district, it noted, 53 officers had been authorized and 23 had been trained, but only six officers were found to be present. Another district had 10 vehicles provided by the U.S. government, but only three drivers.

Note that in this diary I wrote shortly after Petraeus was chosen to replace McChyrstal, I pointed out Petraeus’ history with failed training attempts in Iraq and how the MoveOn ad controversy diverted attention away from those failures and his history of gaming the numbers on training. With the release of this report and its discussion by the Washington Post as well as in Petraeus’ confirmation hearings, it would appear that Petraeus will have someone double-checking his math this time around. So, even though US forces in Afghanistan will continue to make claims on training of Afghans, as evidenced by the photo above, there will be efforts to check into the basis of these claims. Whenever the next Afghanistan strategy review is undertaken, whether it is as scheduled in December or before that, it will be extremely important that accurate data be presented rather than the spin for which Petraeus and McChrystal are known.