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NATO report: Attrition hurts Afghan forces

NATO report: Attrition hurts Afghan forces
Afghan police officers get training in Herat, western, Afghanistan, on April 21, 2010. NATO defense ministers have approved a mission to train the Afghan police in paramilitary skills in a bid to cut the force's soaring death rate. NATO is keen to strengthen Afghanistan's security forces so that it can eventually pull its own troops out of the country. UPI/Hossein Fatemi | License Photo

BRUSSELS, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Progress has been made in building Afghan security forces, but attrition among officers and a lack of mid-level leaders are challenging, a NATO report said.

The NATO Training Mission Afghanistan review was released in advance of a summit of the military alliance later this month in Portugal. In Lisbon, NATO leaders will discuss the international military efforts in Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

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Outside experts agreed with the report, noting improvements in the quality and quantity of Afghan security forces, the Journal said. Afghanistan's lack of experienced mid-level military officers likely means coalition forces must provide help for some time to come, outside experts said.

The attrition rate, estimated at nearly 56 percent in the months before September, is sharpest in the Afghan National Civil Order police, used by the government to hold areas NATO forces have cleared, the report said. The heavy governmental reliance and the possibility of jobs with private security companies, have prompted many officers to leave, experts said.

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U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the training mission commander, began overhauling the program, bringing on more trainers in November 2009. Since then, the Afghan army has grown from 97,011 people to 138,164, while the national police force increased from 84,504 people to 120,504.

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"It is an incredible uplift," Caldwell told the Journal.

In the report, Caldwell identified several problems NATO must address, including an additional 900 trainers to beef up specialized training.

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"We want to sustain the momentum we've achieved," he said. "Without specialized trainers, we will not be able to sustain the momentum. The progress that has been achieved could be reversible."

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