Military Capabilities

US forces hopeful ANDSF can be ‘reconstituted’ before next fighting season

29 November 2017

Key Points

  • USFOR-A believes new auditing systems, among other efforts, can help stem systemic corruption in the ANDSF
  • The Afghan government appears to have bought into the US strategy, but it is less clear if Pakistan has

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are being “reconstituted” and new local security leadership is being promoted, giving US commanders some optimism that the 16-year-long war in Afghanistan may eventually improve.

General John Nicholson, head of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), told reporters at the Pentagon via videoconference on 28 November that in 2018 he expects to see “a generational change in the leadership in [Afghan] security institutions”, because President Ashraf Ghani will press many military and civilian leaders to “retire with dignity”.A US Army unit patrols near Angla Kala in Afghanistan's Kunar province in February 2010. (US Army)A US Army unit patrols near Angla Kala in Afghanistan's Kunar province in February 2010. (US Army)

Under new leadership, the ANDSF will be “reconstituted” over the winter season in preparation for the upcoming fighting season, Gen Nicholson said. The force had struggled significantly without direct support from US and NATO personnel.

An initial audit of the ANDSF is ongoing now “to assure that we eliminate ghost soldiers from the roll books”. By mid-2018 USFOR-A expects to have better visibility of how many local soldiers are actually on the books. The presence of ghost soldiers has long been a problem – they are used to grift funding from the US-led coalition, enriching corrupt local commanders and resulting in a weaker ANDSF.

As part of efforts to ‘reconstitute’ the ANDSF, US advisors will embed with Afghan National Army conventional and special operations troops at lower levels. “You’re looking at well over 1,000 [US] advisors out at any given time” on the battlefield, plus any additional enabling capabilities, under the new plan, Gen Nicholson said, adding that any time US personnel step outside a protected base, they are to have intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets; command-and-control; fire support; logistical support such as medevac; and more.

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