Terror outfit Al Qaeda may return to Afghanistan and the country’s future could be jeopardised if NATO-led foreign troops are withdrawn too quickly, military commanders have warned British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron has been told that the current plan to hand control of the Afghan security to the country’s forces in 2013 may need to be “diluted”, the Telegraph reported Sunday.
British commanders believe the Afghan National Security Forces, the army and police are not yet fully capable of taking over from international forces.
Under current plans, the ANSF is supposed to take over responsibility by the middle of 2013 and the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) will be withdrawn from combat operations by the end of 2014.
The timing has been agreed to by Cameron and US President Barack Obama.
Britain’s current deployment of 9,000 soldiers would be reduced significantly next year, and after 2014, only a small number of British troops would remain in Afghanistan, mostly as advisers to the Afghan military.
However, Cameron has now been advised that there are “significant fears” over the quality and ability of Afghan troops.
The fears relayed by senior officers include the level of desertions, the growing number of attacks on Western forces and corruption within the Afghan police.
Out of an Afghan Security Force of around 350,000 troops, 15,000 are currently absent without leave, and around 25,000 have been written off as permanent absentees or deserters.
This year, 30 ISAF troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police in 21 separate attacks, while an entire group of Afghan police recently deserted and joined the Taliban.
The whole cadre of 40 police who changed sides, the whole unit was created by a US initiative in 2010.
“The Afghan army is not going to be ready to take the lead in operations next year, that is certain. There are very few battalions, probably fewer than 10, which can plan, mount and execute operations without NATO’s help,” an official said.
“We have been on operations with the Afghans, where you have to kick the door down and push them inside the building to clear it. That goes down as an Afghan-led operation,” the official said.
A battalion is made up of about 600 men, but by the end of 2014, the Afghan army must reach a level of 240,000 troops, more than twice the size of the British Army.