"A Necessary Condition" by LTG James Dubik, U.S. Army (Ret.)


A Necessary Condition

by LTG James M. Dubik, U.S. Army (Ret.), ARMY Magazine, April 2010
The war in Afghanistan is not the war in Iraq, but both wars have this essential commonality: Each country needs a security force that is large enough, capable enough and confident enough to provide national security. The size the Afghan national security force (ANSF) agreed to during the January London Conference—an Afghan army of 171,000 and a police force of 134,000—will not fit the bill.
Incremental commitments to increasing the size of the ANSF have been part of the reason why, after almost a decade, the force is still too small, incapable of doing more. If we are to reach the strategic position in Afghanistan that we have reached in Iraq, the United States and NATO must commit to a larger ANSF, then make it sufficiently capable. By itself, an Afghan national security force is not a sufficient condition to guarantee strategic success, but it is a necessary condition. In the summer of 2007, the United States committed to building an Iraqi security force (ISF) of 600,000–650,000.
Over the next 12 months, we grew the ISF by more than 125,000—fielding new units, increasing the size of existing units, improving the fighting competency at the lower tactical levels through better training and more expansive partnership with units from
Coalition forces, adding more sergeants and officers, and quickening the pace of equipment delivery. The sum of these actions improved the overall competence and confidence throughout the force. Equally important, we committed to building this force, in conjunction with the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior, at the pace that the surge’s counteroffensive required. This commitment was one of the ingredients essential to success.
By tying the growth of the ISF to the operational pace, Iraqi forces were able to contribute not only to the offensive clearing operations but also to holding and building. Following a clearing operation, for example, Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) could leave behind only some of its forces because they could partner with an adequate number of sufficiently trained, equipped and led Iraqi forces. The remainder of MNC-I’s force, with other Iraqi units, could then continue counteroffensive operations.
This process was working well enough that ultimately Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had the confidence to launch a series of semi-independent operations in spring and summer of 2008, and we had the confidence to negotiate the status of forces agreement, accelerate the transition of provinces to Iraqi control and set the conditions for the withdrawal of Coalition forces.
None of this was without risk or difficulty, and no one should interpret this as a process that produced a fully mature and professionalized Iraqi security force. Rather, what was produced was an Iraqi security force large enough and good enough to handle what was left of the threat after the counteroffensive, and one that could continue to improve over time. This is what is needed in Afghanistan.

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