New U.S. training unit in Afghanistan faces old problems
Reuters: Captain Joe Fontana, a team leader with the U.S. army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, is part of a new unit but he is working on problems that have been stubbornly familiar to American military advisers in Afghanistan for years. The 1st SFAB was formed last year as a new force of experienced advisers, to focus U.S. army training and support for Afghan troops and, in future, for other foreign armies.
It deployed to Afghanistan in March, putting U.S. advisers, previously largely restricted to Corps headquarters, together with front-line brigades and battalions for the first time since most international forces left in 2014. The SFAB has arrived at a time of increasing pressure on the Afghan National Army (ANA) from Taliban fighters who overran a series of outposts and stormed the strategic city of Ghazni this week.
The problems they have found are the same ones that existed a decade ago when the NATO-led coalition began to reshape Afghan forces into an army on U.S. lines – poor logistics and organization as well as a reliance on static checkpoints that are vulnerable to attack.
Like other advisers, Fontana, who served in a combat unit in the southern Afghan provinces of Zabul and Kandahar in 2011-12 as well as in Iraq, speaks admiringly of the fighting spirit of Afghan soldiers.
But he said the army is dogged by persistent problems with supplies, maintaining equipment and making sure units get proper support, issues which for years have been an obstacle to creating Afghan forces capable of standing on their own.