Report | June 24, 2013

Assessment of U.S. Government and Coalition Efforts to Develop Leaders in the Afghan National Army


What We Did

Our purpose was to assess the sufficiency and the effectiveness of the Coalition’s programs for developing Afghan National Army (ANA) officers and non-commissioned officers.  We conducted interviews with selected leader development subject matter experts in the U.S.  In Afghanistan, we conducted extensive interviews with U.S. and Coalition advisors, as well as their Afghan principals, at the Ministry of Defense, the General Staff, and ANA training schools and operational units. 

What We Found

We found that the Coalition’s programs for the ANA leader development were generally effective and on track for transition to the Afghans.  The establishment of a non-commissioned officer corps, and the roles and responsibilities accompanying this enlisted leadership position, was not completely embraced by senior ANA and General Staff personnel.  The lack of a true merit-based personnel promotion and assignment system negatively impacted the further development of a new generation of ANA leaders. 

We found that among Coalition advisors to the ANA, at both training schools and operational units, there was a wide variation in the selection for assignment and specific advisor training preparation.  Coalition Command data assessment practices and categories did not appear to have been updated to reflect the change in mission emphasis from building the ANA to improving its quality.  

Of special note was the ANA literacy program.  In a country with a very low national literacy rate, this educational program serves not just as an immediate benefit to the ANA, but also eventually the larger nation of Afghanistan by, as one senior officer said, “…allows Afghans to be more discerning…”. 

What We Recommend

  • Commander, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan:
    • Coordinate with the ANA General Staff to validate roles, responsibilities, and authorities for non-commissioned officers and ensure the publishing of appropriate policy and guidance. 
    • Assist the ANA in ensuring both officer and non-commissioned officer training is synchronized regarding the mission of the non-commissioned officer.
    • Advise and assist the MoD and ANA to establish roles and responsibilities, and enforce appropriate personnel policies and practices, specifically regarding personnel records, promotions, assignments, pay, and retirement.
    • Encourage the MoD and ANA to plan to sustain, and even expand, the literacy program.
    • Commander, NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan, in coordination with Commander, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, update the data collection and information sharing practices to better reflect the current mission
  • Commander, NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan, develop standardized selection and training requirements for all advisors.

Management Comments and Our Response

All required commands responded.  NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan’s comments were all responsive.  We require additional comment from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command on three recommendations.