oversight

Afghanistan Security: Long-standing Challenges May Affect Progress and Sustainment of Afghan National Security Forces

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-07-24.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on Oversight
                            and Investigations, Armed Services
                            Committee, House of Representatives

                            AFGHANISTAN SECURITY
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT
Tuesday, July 24, 2012



                            Long-standing Challenges
                            May Affect Progress and
                            Sustainment of Afghan
                            National Security Forces
                            Statement of Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
                            Director, International Affairs and Trade
                            Sharon L. Pickup
                            Director, Defense Capabilities and Management




GAO-12-951T
                                                July 24, 2012

                                                AFGHANISTAN SECURITY
                                                Long-standing Challenges May Affect Progress and
                                                Sustainment of Afghan National Security Forces
Highlights of GAO-12-951T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, Armed Services Committee,
House of Representatives



Why GAO Did This Study                          What GAO Found
Since 2002, the United States and               The Department of Defense (DOD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
other nations have worked to develop            (NATO) report progress developing capable Afghan National Security Forces
ANSF. In 2010, the United States,               (ANSF), but tools used to assess the performance of ANSF units have changed
NATO, and other coalition partners              several times. In April 2012, DOD reported progress increasing the number and
agreed to transition responsibility for         capability of ANSF, with 7 percent of army units and 9 percent of police units
the security of Afghanistan from the            rated at the highest level of capability. GAO has previously found the tools used
international community to the Afghan           by DOD and NATO to assess ANSF reliable enough to support broad statements
government by the end of 2014.                  regarding capability. However, issues related to these tools exist. When GAO
According to NATO, a successful                 reported on ANA capability in January 2011, the highest capability rating level
security transition requires ANSF               was “independent”—meaning that a unit was capable of executing the full
capable of addressing security                  spectrum of its missions without assistance from coalition forces. As of August
challenges in Afghanistan. To support           2011, the highest level had changed to “independent with advisors”—meaning
its development, the United States has          that a unit was capable of executing its mission and can call for coalition forces
allocated $43 billion to train, equip, and
                                                when necessary. DOD reports, these changes, as well as the elimination of
sustain ANSF from fiscal years 2002 to
                                                certain requirements for validating units, were partly responsible for the increase
2011, appropriated $11.2 billion in
fiscal year 2012, and requested about
                                                in ANSF units rated at the highest level.
$5.8 billion for fiscal year 2013.              Several long-standing challenges may affect the sustainment of capable ANSF,
To assist Congress in its oversight,            including cost, key skill gaps in Afghan forces, and limited ministerial capacity.
GAO has issued over 20 reports and              First, while the Afghan government and coalition partners agreed in May 2012 to
testimonies on ANSF since 2005. This            a sustainment model for ANSF, with an annual budget of $4.1 billion, GAO has
testimony discusses findings from               previously reported the Afghan government has limited ability to financially
GAO reports and ongoing work that               support its security forces and is dependent on donor contributions. Second,
cover (1) progress reported and tools           shortfalls in leadership and logistics capabilities in ANSF persist. Addressing
used to assess ANSF capability, (2)             such gaps is necessary to reduce ANSF reliance on coalition support. Finally, the
challenges affecting the development            Ministries of Defense and Interior—which oversee the Afghan army and police—
of capable ANSF, and (3) use of U.S.            continue to require coalition support to accomplish their missions. DOD has also
Security Force Assistance Advisory              reported these ministries face challenges, such as lack of expertise in human
Teams to advise and assist ANSF. To             capital and problems with corruption. GAO has made recommendations to
perform this work, GAO reviewed DOD             address these challenges, including addressing shortages of trainers. Since GAO
and NATO documents, and met with                made its recommendations, additional trainers have deployed to Afghanistan.
officials in Washington, D.C.; Tampa,
FL; Brussels, Belgium; and Kabul,               As part of the overall transition of lead security responsibility to ANSF, starting in
Afghanistan.                                    early 2012, the Army and Marine Corps began training and deploying small
                                                teams of advisors with specialized capabilities, referred to as Security Force
                                                Assistance Advisory Teams (SFAATs). These teams will be located throughout
What GAO Recommends                             Afghanistan and will work with ANSF personnel from the headquarters to the
                                                battalion level and advise and assist in areas such as command and control and
GAO is not making new                           intelligence. GAO’s past work examining the use of training and advisor teams in
recommendations but has made                    Iraq and Afghanistan highlighted certain areas relevant to DOD’s plans to provide
numerous recommendations in prior               SFAATs in support of the current mission in Afghanistan. For example, GAO
reports aimed at improving efforts to           found it is important that DOD assign officers and non-commissioned officers to
develop ANSF capabilities. DOD has              advisor teams in a timely manner so they can train and exercise as a team prior
generally concurred with most of these          to deployment. In addition, commanders need to set clear priorities between the
recommendations and has taken or                advising mission and other operational requirements such as counterinsurgency
has planned steps to address them.              operations. Given the key role of advising teams in supporting the transition
View GAO-12-951T. For more information,         process, these areas will be important considerations for DOD as it continues to
contact Charles Michael Johnson, Jr. at (202)
512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov, or Sharon
                                                refine its plans for forming, deploying, and using advisor personnel to mentor and
L. Pickup at (202) 512-9619 or                  develop the ANSF.
pickups@gao.gov.
                                                                                          United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman Wittman, Ranking Member Cooper, and Members of the
Subcommittee:

We are pleased to be here to discuss U.S. and international efforts to
develop capable Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Since 2002,
the United States and other nations have worked to develop the
capabilities of ANSF. In 2010, the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), the Afghan government, and members of the
international community agreed to transition responsibility for the security
of Afghanistan from the international community to the Afghan
government by the end of 2014. In the past few months, NATO has
begun to shift the focus of its mission from combat to a support role more
focused on advising and assisting ANSF. According to NATO, a
successful transition requires that ANSF be fully capable of addressing
security challenges in Afghanistan on a sustainable basis. To support this
effort, the United States allocated $43 billion to build, train, equip, and
sustain ANSF from fiscal year 2002 to 2011, with an additional $11.2
billion appropriated in fiscal year 2012 and approximately $5.8 billion
requested by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for fiscal year 2013.

To assist Congress in its oversight, since 2005 we have issued over 20
reports and testimonies focusing on ANSF. Our remarks are based on our
prior and ongoing work on this issue. 1 Specifically, we address (1)
progress reported and tools used to assess ANSF capability, (2)
challenges affecting the development of capable ANSF, and (3) use of
U.S. Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams to advise and assist
ANSF. Detailed information on the scope and methodology for our prior
work can be found in the reports we have cited throughout this statement.
For the purposes of this testimony, we updated data on ANSF size and
capability using DOD and NATO progress reports. We obtained the views
of DOD on this information and incorporated the Department’s comments
where appropriate. We conducted the underlying performance audits in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our



1
 For example, GAO, Afghanistan Security: Department of Defense Effort to Train Afghan
Police Relies on Contractor Personnel to Fill Skill and Resource Gaps, GAO-12-293R
(Washington, D.C.: Feb. 23, 2012); and Afghanistan Security: Afghan Army Growing, but
Additional Trainers Needed; Long-term Costs Not Determined, GAO-11-66 (Washington,
D.C.: Jan. 27, 2011).




Page 1                                                                    GAO-12-951T
                       findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                       the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                       conclusions based on our audit objectives.


                       DOD and NATO report progress in developing capable ANSF. 2 In April
DOD and NATO           2012, DOD reported that the number of ANSF grew steadily and
Report Progress        exceeded growth targets. Similarly, as of May 2012, NATO reported that
Developing Capable     the Afghan National Army (ANA) reached its October 2012 recruitment
                       growth goal of 195,000, while the Afghan National Police (ANP) reached
ANSF, but Assessment   149,208 of its October 2012 goal of 157,000. We previously reported that
Tool Has Changed       DOD reported similar progress in 2010, achieving its interim growth goals
                       for the ANA several months ahead of schedule. Further, DOD noted that
Over Time              increased numbers of ANSF were accompanied by increased capability
                       of these forces, reporting that 7 percent (15 out of 219) of ANA and 9
                       percent (39 out of 435) of ANP units rated as operating independently
                       with the assistance of advisors. 3 Table 1 provides additional information
                       on DOD assessments of the ANA and ANP.




                       2
                        DOD reported this assessment in its April 2012 Report on Progress Toward Security and
                       Stability in Afghanistan, which covers progress in Afghanistan from October 1, 2011 to
                       March 31, 2012.
                       3
                        Assessments classify ANSF units into one of six levels of performance: independent with
                       advisors, effective with advisors, effective with partners, developing with partners,
                       established, and not assessed.




                       Page 2                                                                      GAO-12-951T
Table 1: DOD Assessments of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National
Police (ANP) Operational Effectiveness reported in April 2012

 Rating Definition            ANA Units and             Percent     ANP         Percent
 Level                         Headquarters             of Units   Units        of Units
 Independent with                           15              7%        39             9%
 Advisors
 Effective with                           101                46      180             41
 Advisors
 Effective with                             80               37      102             23
 Partners
 Developing with                            18                8       36                  8
 Partners
 Established                                 3                1       16                  4
 Not Assessed                                2                1       62             14
 Totals                                   219             100%       435          100%
Source: DOD.

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.


ANSF ratings are based on the Commander’s Unit Assessment Tool
(CUAT), an assessment system used to evaluate the capability of ANSF.
The assessment tool provides quantitative data for security force units,
including the level of personnel, equipment, and training, and qualitative
assessments for functions such as leadership and education. In addition,
the assessment tool reports on the operational performance of the ANA
and ANP units. DOD uses these assessments as part of its report of
progress in the development of capable ANSF. We have previously found
these assessment tools reliable enough to support broad statements
regarding ANSF capability. 4

However, issues related to these assessment tools exist. Specifically, key
definitions used in ANSF assessments have changed several times and
assessments did not fully measure ANP capability until recently.

•    Changing definitions. Key definitions used in capability assessments
     of ANSF have changed several times. For instance, when we reported
     on ANA capability in January 2011, the highest capability rating level


4
 For the purpose of this statement, we determined that we did not need to independently
validate these assessments, as we are presenting DOD and NATO data to describe and
comment on their reports of progress.




Page 3                                                                      GAO-12-951T
    was “independent”—meaning that a unit was capable of planning,
    executing, and sustaining the full spectrum of its missions without
    assistance from coalition forces. As of August 2011, the highest level
    changed to “independent with advisors”—meaning that a unit was
    capable of planning, executing, and sustaining its mission, and can
    call for coalition forces when necessary. 5 The change to “independent
    with advisors” also lowered the standard for unit personnel and
    equipment levels from “not less than 85” to “not less than 75” percent
    of authorized levels. As DOD reports, these changes, as well as the
    elimination of certain requirements for validating units, were
    responsible, in part, for its reported increase in April 2012 of the
    number of ANSF units rated at the highest level. We have previously
    reported that clarity regarding the criteria by which security forces are
    assessed is critical to congressional oversight of efforts to develop
    foreign security forces. 6

•   Problems assessing ANP capability. DOD has reported problems
    using the CUAT to assess the capability of the ANP. Until recently, the
    same report template was used to assess the ANA and ANP, despite
    the differing missions of these institutions. While the assessment tool
    did rate the ability of ANA and ANP units to meet their
    counterinsurgency mission, according to DOD it did not address civil
    policing and other responsibilities of the ANP. 7 DOD reported that the
    February 2012 CUAT report began collecting data on community
    policing and rule of law capabilities of the ANP. According to DOD,
    prior to February 2012, the ANP were more focused on
    counterinsurgency than civil policing. However, the assessment tool
    cannot be used to report on the development of ANP capability to
    perform civil policing functions prior to February 2012.



5
 We first reported on changes to capability ratings for the ANA in 2008, noting that
definitions for the highest level of ANA capability changed from “independent operating
capability” to “full operational capability.” See GAO, Afghanistan Security: Further
Congressional Action May Be Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to
Develop and Sustain Capable Afghan National Security Forces, GAO-08-661
(Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2008).
6
 GAO, Operation Iraqi Freedom: DOD Assessment of Iraqi Security Forces’ Units as
Independent Not Clear Because ISF Support Capabilities Are Not Fully Developed,
GAO-08-143R (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 30, 2007).
7
 GAO, Foreign Police Assistance: Defined Roles and Improved Information Sharing Could
Enhance Interagency Collaboration, GAO-12-534 (Washington, D.C.: May 9, 2012).




Page 4                                                                        GAO-12-951T
                        The security transition in Afghanistan is contingent on ANSF capable of
Long-standing           providing security throughout the country as coalition forces shift the
Challenges May Affect   focus of their mission to a support role. Several long-standing challenges,
                        including cost, key skill gaps in Afghan forces, and limited capacity of
Progress and            ministries supporting the ANSF, may affect the capability of ANSF to
Sustainment of          sustain lead responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. 8
Capable ANSF            •    Cost to sustain ANSF. We have previously reported that an analysis
                             of the amount of future funding needed to support ANSF is critical for
                             decision making and oversight. At the May 2012 NATO conference,
                             the United States and other donor nations contributing to the NATO-
                             led ANSF training mission agreed to a preliminary model for the future
                             sustainment of ANSF. This model envisions a post-2014 force size of
                             228,500 with an estimated annual budget of $4.1 billion. 9 We have
                             previously reported that the Afghan government has limited ability to
                             financially support its security forces and is dependent on donor
                             contributions. 10 A January 2010 International Monetary Fund analysis
                             projected that it will take at least until 2023 for the Afghan government
                             to raise sufficient revenues to cover its operating expenses, including
                             those related to the army and police. Ensuring continued donor
                             contributions until that time may present challenges.

                        •    Key skill gaps in ANSF. In 2009 and 2011, we reported that key skill
                             gaps exist within the ANA and ANP, including shortfalls in leadership
                             and logistics capability. 11 We have previously recommended that
                             DOD, in conjunction with international partners, take steps to
                             eliminate the shortage of training personnel for the ANA needed to
                             address these skill gaps. However, in April 2012, DOD reported that
                             shortages in the number of non-commissioned officers needed to
                             provide leadership to ANSF remained a challenge, noting that the
                             ANA required an additional 10,600 non-commissioned officers and the



                        8
                         According to DOD, lead security responsibility means ANSF are planning and controlling
                        operations with the advice and support of NATO. In May 2012, GAO issued a classified
                        report on the security transition in Afghanistan.
                        9
                        In April 2012, GAO issued a restricted report on the cost to build and sustain ANSF.
                        10
                          GAO, Afghanistan’s Donor Dependence, GAO-11-948R (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 20,
                        2011).
                        11
                         See GAO-11-66 and Afghanistan: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight,
                        GAO-09-473SP (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 21, 2009).




                        Page 5                                                                       GAO-12-951T
    ANP required approximately 8,300. DOD has previously noted that
    the development of leaders for ANSF is essential to improving its
    capability. Additionally, despite reported progress in providing ANSF
    with literacy training—a key prerequisite for learning specialized skills,
    such as logistics, needed to reduce reliance on coalition forces—DOD
    states that illiteracy remains a challenge. Further, despite the surge of
    U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the training mission continues to
    experience a shortfall in personnel needed to help address these key
    skill gaps. According to DOD, as of March 2012, about 16 percent of
    instructor positions to train ANSF were unfilled and NATO lacked
    pledges to fill them.

•   Limited capacity of ministries supporting ANSF. We have previously
    reported that limited capacity in the Afghan Ministries of Defense
    (MOD) and Interior (MOI)—which oversee the ANA and ANP,
    respectively—present challenges to the development and sustainment
    of capable ANSF. For instance, MOI faced challenges, such as a lack
    of consolidated personnel databases and formal training in properly
    executing budget and salary functions. In April 2012, DOD reported
    that the MOD was assessed as requiring some coalition assistance to
    accomplish its mission—an assessment unchanged since October
    2010, while the MOI was assessed as needing significant coalition
    assistance—an assessment unchanged since 2009. 12 Additionally,
    DOD reported that the ministries face a variety of challenges,
    including, among others, MOD’s lack of human capital in areas
    requiring technical expertise and MOI’s continuing problems with
    corruption.




12
  GAO, Afghanistan Governance: Performance-Data Gaps Hinder Overall Assessment of
U.S. Efforts to Build Financial Management Capacity, GAO-11-907 (Washington, D.C.:
Sept. 20, 2011).




Page 6                                                                 GAO-12-951T
                         As part of the overall transition of lead security responsibility to the ANSF
Factors to Consider in   by 2014, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is shifting from a combat role to
Deployment and Use       more of an advising and assist mission. To that end, earlier this year, the
                         United States and coalition nations have begun providing specialized
of Security Force        teams, referred to as security force assistance advisory teams (SFAATs),
Assistance Advisory      to provide leadership and expertise to ANSF personnel and units. At the
Teams to Develop the     same time, overall U.S. troop levels are planned to draw down from about
                         87,000 as of the end of March 2012, to approximately 68,000 by the end
ANSF                     of September 2012.

                         Mentoring, advising, and partnering with ANSF units has been a key part
                         of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. For the U.S. contribution, DOD has
                         used a variety of approaches to provide U.S. forces to carry out the
                         advise and assist mission, including forming individual training teams as
                         well as augmenting existing brigade combat teams with additional
                         personnel to serve as advisors. Starting in early 2012, the Army and
                         Marine Corps began training and deploying small teams of advisors with
                         specialized capabilities, or SFAATs. These teams will be located
                         throughout Afghanistan and are comprised of officers and senior-grade
                         non-commissioned officers. They will work with ANSF personnel from the
                         headquarters to the battalion level and advise and assist in areas such as
                         command and control, intelligence, and logistics. In addition, the SFAATs
                         will work with the ground commander to arrange for these units to provide
                         any necessary support to ANSF units such as fire support or medical
                         assistance. To initially provide these teams, the Army and Marine Corps
                         in some cases created these teams by drawing personnel from units that
                         had already deployed to Afghanistan. In other cases, they created teams
                         by drawing personnel from U.S. based units. As the Army and Marine
                         Corps plan to provide additional teams of advisors for future deployments,
                         they are exploring whether to use the same approaches or other options
                         for organizing and deploying these personnel. In addition, coalition
                         nations are expected to provide a number of similar advisor teams.

                         Our past work examining the use of training teams and advisor teams in
                         Iraq and Afghanistan highlighted certain areas that we believe are
                         relevant to DOD’s plans to provide the SFAATs in support of the current
                         mission in Afghanistan. 13 For example, our recent work focused on the



                         13
                          See Iraq and Afghanistan: Actions Needed to Enhance the Ability of Army Brigades to
                         Support the Advising Mission, GAO-11-760 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 2, 2011).




                         Page 7                                                                    GAO-12-951T
Army, which in 2009 shifted its approach and began replacing individual
training teams with brigade combat teams augmented with advisor
personnel. Specifically, we identified challenges related to the sourcing
and training of personnel, balancing missions, defining command and
control relationships, and providing support to advisor personnel once
deployed.

•   Sourcing and training of advisor personnel. Neither the training teams
    nor the augments provided to the Army’s brigade combat teams
    existed in any of the services’ doctrinal structures. Instead, they were
    typically sourced with personnel who were identified individually, and
    generally consisted of company and field-grade officers and senior
    non-commissioned officers who were taken from other units. We
    found that DOD faced some difficulty in providing the required field
    grade officers or specialized capabilities to these teams, because of
    widespread demand for these personnel, whose numbers were
    already in short supply. In addition, DOD faced challenges getting
    personnel assigned to advisor teams in a timely manner, limiting their
    ability to train and exercise as a team prior to deployment.

•   Balancing advising activities with other missions. We found that units
    in Afghanistan faced some challenges because commanders did not
    always set clear priorities between the advising mission and other
    operational requirements, such as counterinsurgency operations or
    performing missions such as conducting checkpoints. As a result, in
    kinetic combat environments, commanders prioritized the combat
    mission and directed their resources accordingly.

•   Defining command-and-control relationships. Theater commanders
    did not always provide clear guidance on command and control
    structures for the advisors. In some cases, the lack of clarity on
    command relationships between brigades and advisor teams led to
    the reassignment of advisors to the control of a division or a brigade
    that they had not trained and deployed with.

•   Provision of support to advisor teams. We found that brigades in
    Afghanistan sometimes faced challenges providing the necessary
    support to advisor teams such as transportation assets, force
    protection resources, and equipment because support requirements
    had not always been clearly identified, these items and capabilities
    were in limited supply and were, at times, also needed to support
    combat operations.




Page 8                                                            GAO-12-951T
                  We made several recommendations to DOD to enhance the
                  Department’s ability to support the advising mission, including clearly
                  defining the requirements for the number, ranks, and capabilities of
                  advisors, the relative priority of the advising mission, and the support that
                  advisor teams require. DOD concurred with our recommendations and
                  has taken some actions to implement them. Given the key role of advising
                  teams in supporting the transition process, these areas will be important
                  considerations for DOD as it continues to refine its plans for forming,
                  deploying, and using advisor personnel to mentor and develop the ANSF.


                  Chairman Wittman, Ranking Member Cooper, and Members of the
                  Subcommittee, this concludes our prepared statement. We would be
                  happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.


                  For further information on this statement, please contact Charles Michael
Contacts and      Johnson, Jr. at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov, or Sharon L.
Acknowledgments   Pickup at (202) 512-9619 or pickups@gao.gov. In addition, contact points
                  for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be
                  found on the last page of this statement. Individuals who made key
                  contributions to this statement include Tetsuo Miyabara, Assistant
                  Director; James A. Reynolds, Assistant Director; Ashley Alley; Teakoe
                  Coleman; Tara Copp; Thomas Costa; Joyee Dasgupta; David Dayton;
                  Martin deAlteriis; Hynek Kalkus; Farahnaaz Khakoo; Christopher Mulkins;
                  Marcus Lloyd Oliver; Nina Pfeiffer; Lisa Reijula; Biza Repko; Luis
                  Rodriguez; Pierre Toureille; and Sally Williamson.




(320931)
                  Page 9                                                            GAO-12-951T
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