Sunday, December 20, 2009

Afghan Math: $1 Million Per U.S. Soldier = 166 Afghan Soldiers (at $6,000 each)

Admiral Mullen recently met with some Afghan tribal elders - and as all Americans are prone to do at such meetings, pulled out his notebook and asked "What do you need?"  The tribal elder answers amounted to "Let us fight the war" and "Spend the money you spend on your Soldiers on our young men".  Read some commentary about this meeting by a officer in the U.S. military who has deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq and who has done some academic work as well.  See "Outside View: Surely you're joking, Admiral Mullen", UPI, December 19, 2009.

But let's explore the issues these two answers raise:

$1,000,000 for a U.S. Soldier; $6,000 for an Afghan Soldier.  An interesting note made by the Afghan elders in the news article cited above is the amount of money it takes to deploy and sustain a U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan vs. training and paying for an Afghan Soldier in Afghanistan.  $1,000,000 for the U.S. Soldier vs. $6,000 for the Afghan Soldier.  So for every U.S Soldier we don't send to Afghanistan we could train, equip, and pay 165 Afghan Soldiers. (According to my calculator it is 166 Afghan Solders; but whatever).  If we don't send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and use the money for training, equipping, advising, and paying the Afghan Army that would buy us 4,980,000 Afghan Soldiers.  Hmmmmmm.  Let me check my math again.  30,000 Soldiers times 166 Afghan Soldiers = 4,980,000.  Yep, my math was right.

One Million Afghan Soldiers.  Well, maybe we don't need 5 million Afghan Soldiers.  Maybe we could get the job done with 1 million Afghan Soldiers or 20% of 30,000 U.S. Soldiers.  So that leaves 80% of the 30,000 U.S. Soldiers which gives us back 24,000 American Soldiers that we could send over as trainers and advisors (not fighters) for our 1 million man Afghan military force.

Follow the Money.  The Afghan government and ministries are notoriously corrupt.  Much of the aid sent their way has been diverted to "private accounts".  If we "re-purpose" the money mean't for 30,000 additional troops ($1 million per U.S. Soldier) and provide it to the Afghans to support the Afghan military units then we have a problem.  How much of this money is really going to support the Afghan military?  Are we handing it over to corrupt Afghan ministries?  Typically the Afghans take their 10% off the top at each echelon so that by the time it gets to the Afghan battalion in the field we get to apply only 1 out of every ten dollars to the recruiting, training, equiping, and advising of the Afghan Army unit.  Perhaps we need to control the money flow so we get maximum effect out of every U.S. dollar.

Trainers/Advisors.  This leads me to another topic.  How do you employ 24,000 troops as trainers/advisors?  The normal tooth to tail ratio is 10:1; meaning of the additional 24,000 troops deployed only 1 in ten (or 2,400) would actually do anything with an Afghan unit.  The remaining nine would provide base security, Internet access, contracting services, MWR, construction, dining facilities, equipment maintenance, and so on.  And of those 2,400?  Are they qualified to be trainers? And are they operating out of large bases such as Salerno or Bagram or living with the Afghan military units?  Did we put them through anything that resembles preparation to be a trainer or advisor or are they infantry units "re-tasked"?  Are they SF ODA "capable"?  Perhaps what prepares someone to be a trainer/advisor is a topic for another blog post.

So maybe you can tweak my calculations a bit with "what-ifs", "buts", and "you didn't think of this".  The bottom line argument is that we should have sunk more money and training into the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) starting way back in 2003 instead of spending money on sending and maintaining US Army units (and the enormous tail to support them).

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