In outlining his new strategy for the beleaguered Afghan military campaign, U.S. President Barack Obama put Afghanistan's nascent security forces front and center in the U.S. effort to right the mission. Obama announced the deployment of about four thousand additional U.S. troops to train Afghan soldiers which, the president said, will "fully resource our effort to train and support the Afghan Army and Police" for the first time. Senior U.S. military officials, meanwhile, have said America's exit strategy is tied to Afghanistan's ability to provide its own security, and NATO and coalition partners have embraced the concept that improving the capability of Afghan forces is the quickest way to exit. Japan, for instance, announced plans in February 2009 to pay the salaries of roughly eighty thousand Afghan police officers for six months. And NATO nations in late March 2009 pledged to add upwards of five thousand temporary troops to improve security for elections, as well as to help in training efforts. Yet some analysts warn that building Afghanistan's security apparatus will take more than pledges and cash (RFE/RL). Even the top military commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David McKiernan, acknowledges the handover of security to indigenous forces is "years away."
Security Force Components
Afghanistan's National Security Forces consist of three principle components--the army, the army air corps, and the national police. Within these units, specialized personnel round out the country's security capabilities, including communications and logistical staff, border guards, and narcotics officers. Yet as sound as the country's security apparatus appears on paper, its effectiveness, professionalism, and state of readiness remains uneven. In March 2009, with violence in Afghanistan at an all-time high, President Obama vowed to "accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan Army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000...