Monday, November 19, 2007

NATO begins to get it?

I've ripped on NATO and specifically ISAF a good amount in the past, but this post contains some good news, for a change.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) will "probably by 2009 or 2010 be very capable in terms of conducting independent combat operations country-wide," NATO sources tell Ares.

"But they will need more time, at least to 2015, to be self-sufficient in all the supporting areas, such as recruitment, training, administration, and particularly supporting themselves logistically," the sources warn.

"Making the ANA logistically self-sufficient will be the most difficult challenge and take the longest time to achieve," Ares learned in a background briefing session at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

In the last six months, sources say, NATO has become "pleased with the progress that the ANA has made. "Certainly in the last two-three months the frequency of platoon- and company-size ANA operations has really gone up."

This is to a large extent thanks to the work of NATO-provided Operational Mentoring & Liaison Teams (OMLTs -- pronounced "omelettes"), typically 20-strong teams of special forces-caliber instructors that are attached to ANA battalions to help them work up to combat readiness.

Most OMLTs are still provided by the U.S. but increasingly, NATO nations are stepping in to offer OMLTs as well, sources say.

The logistical news is unsurprising; the same is true of Iraqi Army forces. Both nations' armies will need outside support in areas such as logistics and fire/air support for a long time. That shouldn't detract from the good work the OMLTs are doing. Some particularly interesting news regarding who is stepping up to provide the OMLTs:

At a recent force generation conference, NATO nations the Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Slovakia all said they would send additional troops to join RC South. Of these, the Czechs and Slovaks reportedly are contributing a joint OMLT unit while France, too, will send an OMLT (the latter to be assigned to an Afghan battalion in Uruzgan province).

Georgia will also be sending some 200 troops to Uruzgan, while significantly two unidentified Arab nations (believed to be Jordan and the United Arab Emirates) have also said they will deploy a mix of regular combat troops and special operations forces to join ISAF (in Helmand and Kandahar province).

Outside of France, the NATO nations deploying troops are all part of "new NATO." Also interesting is the commitment from Georgia, given their level of domestic unrest. I'm sure the Arab troops will definitely be welcomed with very open arms. The more of them we can get the better.