Marine Colonel: Stop Afghan Army Expansion!


Categorie: Afghanistan, COIN, David Axe, Training |


Jeff Haynes retired as a colonel after years overseeing the U.S. Marine Corps teams training the Afghan National Army. As Afghan war boss General Stan McChrystal weighs nearly doubling the current 90,000-strong ANA, Haynes is urging caution. “The reality is that ANA effectiveness is already suffering because of an inadequate number of competent leaders and staff officers from the kandak (battalion) through the corps level. Growing the army too fast will only exacerbate this leadership deficit.”

The Afghan war, Haynes writes, “is ‘leader-centric’ warfare.” An “unsustainable growth rate will exacerbate the current dearth of ANA quality leaders and is highly unlikely to result in an increase in ANA operational capacity and effectiveness.”

Haynes describes what a poorly-led ANA kandak looks like: In Nuristan in 2008, “the ANA brigade commander at the time was in command only due to ethnic and political ties. The same was true of the kandak commander in Nuristan. The only solid commander in the brigade was Colonel Esok in Sarkoni, a fine commander with excellent potential, who could not secure a seat on an advanced education program or get promoted due to his lack of political connections.”

A well-led kandak, like that in the Tagab Valley last year, “knew when to inspire and when to coddle or intimidate always seeming to strike the correct balance between carrot and stick. With extensive mentoring, [Colonel] Zameri’s 3rd Brigade in June 2008, conceived and commenced a holistic counterinsurgency campaign.”

One solution is to promote experienced Afghan sergeants, Haynes advises. “The ANA must select and grow leaders from the ranks now by instituting a commissioning program for senior NCOs, especially sergeants major.”

(Photo: David Axe)

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4 Responses to “Marine Colonel: Stop Afghan Army Expansion!”

  1. Michael Gonzalez says:

    Again, we hear from a COL who knows how to run the war with a simplistic plan of action to involve a culture to train and become like ours…To COL (R) Haynes…Appreciate your service and efforts but please quit being the problem…I too have advised and have led combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq…It is not as simple as Americanize these units and put those worthy of command in command. Lets utilize the realism that these cultures do not view or value our passion for promoting from within and seeing value in bottom up leadership. Maybe we need to work within their constructs and seeing as AF is the one place, in my opinion, we should be we should go back to finding out what the “Afghans” want for themselves….if that is what we are trying to truly espouse. If we arent then GEN McCrystal’s plan may be the most worthy…after all I think I will take GEN McCrystal’s plan based on strategic and operational assesment derived from tactical views and recommendations over COL Hayne’s, simply tactical, anyday.

  2. Stan Lore says:

    I don’t view the Colonel’s comments as being the way to run the war, only to sustain a level of competence in the ANA officer corps as the army becomes larger. I’m pretty sure Gen McChrystal agrees that the quality of leadership should be a factor in how fast the ANA grows! He asked for more troops and he got them. Not the number he requested, but he got more troops. This does not mean Col. Haynes’ suggestions are incompatible with Gen. McChrystal’s plan. Any one who has been in combat knows the unsettling impact of a new 2nd lt fresh from OCS. They don’t know diddly but they are in charge. Some turn into good leaders, some don’t and some die before they finish trying. But at least we knew they had the benefit of good training and were there because they earned their commission. Not sure I’d want to follow into a firefight a man whose commission was the result of connections rather than training. (I was a Marine wounded in Vietnam in 68) Col. Haynes thoughts are as valued by me as Gen McChrystal’s insofar as how I reach my conclusions about the war. I also have to believe that the Gen. is aware of the leadership vacuum in the ANA.

    My point is this: why criticize Col. Haynes for comments that sure seem to make sense? The Col. has a valid point. Use it to better understand the Afghanistan situation. Don’t criticize just to see yourself in print.

  3. Patrick Dougherty says:

    The Col is right on. First, it’s not our war. The more we call it our war, the less the American people are going to want to support the conflict. It’s just the way Americans are. Assisting the Afghans in THEIR war is another story. American’s love to help. It’s obvious that Afghanistan being a stable country is a key factor in the security of the US. However, let’s ask the BIG questions – Who owns the battle space in Afghanistan? Afghans, the ones we expect to stablize the region when we leave? In a US combatant commanders eyes, he owns the battle fields. How would you feel if you were shoved aside and told how to fight on your land? This is an UNCONVENTIONAL WAR! I never seen the bad guys driving a tank. Early partnering with the Afghans, then well trained advisors is the answer. A larger Army under poor leadership just means more chaos, corruption and “thinner” lines. Afghans have more potential than we give them credit for. If your the man of your house, and someone moves in and wants to tell you when, where and how to fix your house….you’d get a little pissed and I wonder how fast you would move. If we had filled the 3000+ advisor we were short in Afghanistan over the years, rather than ignoring that fact, we might not have a General asking for 30,000 more!

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