Michael's Dispatches

Afghan Army


12 March 2009

There is dispute whether the testimony to the British House of Commons regarding the Afghan National Army is correct.

Part of that testimony was published on my site yesterday.

Colonel Bill Hix emailed to me from Afghanistan with an on-the-ground view.  It is important to note that Colonel Hix is a veteran of Iraq, with much experience in the tough parts of Afghanistan.  I was out with his soldiers in late 2008.  Colonel Hix is highly respected among combat soldiers who don't hand out respect easily.  His views on Afghanistan are highly-informed, cautious and realistic, but definitely more optimistic than are mine.  I greatly respect his highly informed opinion and so it's important to make sure Colonel Hix's counterpoints get wide distribution.  Please link to this dispatch.  (Note to journalists seeking truth on Afghanistan: Colonel Hix is at KAF and is an important source regarding conditions in southern Afghanistan.)

This from Colonel Bill Hix regarding the testimony:

The assertions on ANA unit independence are incorrect.  As well, the ANA is larger than stated in the article, but was only recently authorized by the Bonn Accord constituted Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to grow beyond 80,000 to 122,000 in structure and 134,000 in end strength.  Even with that increase, neither the ANA nor the ANP are adequate in size, fully equipped, or have enough advisor teams.  However, while far from perfect, they fight, are capable and can operate effectively. 

Some examples from those ANA and ANP forces in the south of Afghanistan:

-75% of the brigade headquarters and 50% of the infantry battalions in the south of Afghanistan are capable of independent action within their organic capabilities.  The combat support and service support battalions are lagging for a variety of reasons, including an absence of branch schools [much of their training comes from the advisor teams embedded with them, on the job training, and mobile training and regional training teams] and the propensity of commanders to use them as infantry due in part to over tasking and inadequate numbers mentioned above.

-In November 2008, the brigade in Zabul province mounted an independent, multi-battalion operation into an enemy sanctuary with almost no Coalition support.  What little support they did receive was limited to one day of ISR support, occasional attack helicopter support, and an EOD team to reduce IEDs found by Afghan engineers [ANA EOD capabilities are still in development] who successfully cleared a two day route of march of without injury or loss of equipment. 

-In October 2008, the Afghans planned and executed the relief of Lashkar Gah [capital of Helmand province -- under the UK Task Force], deploying over 2300 Army and Police into the city and surrounding area from as far as Kabul in less than 2 days, launching operations within 2 days of those forces closing, and sustaining those operations for nearly two weeks.  The operation was planned by the ANA brigade commander and jointly executed by the ANA and ANP under the direction of the ANA brigade commander and in partnership with the ANP provincial Chief of Police.  Except for advisor teams, coalition support and participation was generally limited to ISR and fire support.  This operation was undertaken in response to a threat Afghans government, Army and Police leaders had been highlighting to the Coalition, to little avail, over the preceding two months.  Afghan concerns at one point were dismissed as ‘chasing ghosts.’ To their credit, 3 Commando Brigade, having only recently assumed the TF Helmand mission, focused on enabling this operation which contributed to its success.

-With the exception of one very tough district, every district where the Police have undergone the Focused District Development reform program has seen dramatic drops in civilian casualties and significant drops in police casualties.  Moreover, despite our constant recriminations and obvious shortcomings, including continued corruption, the police poll very highly with the Afghan people and they do fight to protect their people, suffering 3 times the casualties seen by either the ANA or ISAF.

-ANA and ANP units routinely conduct joint cordon and search operations around Kandahar City independent of support from the Coalition.

-Similarly, ANA companies in remote district outposts with their advisers do conduct operations daily.  For example, a series of night ambush operations killed a number of Taliban leaders who threatened locals with death if they came to the local market, and broke the intimidation of the population and restored security and local commerce in the area.

None of this to suggest they are perfect, but they are far better and capable than most of our Coalition partners will admit or allow.

Not sure what you meant by AOG, but if you mean Afghan Opposition Groups, the AOGs suffer significant casualties when fighting the Coalition and, absent IED attacks, most often when fighting the ANSF, especially the ANA.

Say something here...
You are a guest ( Sign Up ? )
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LT Jones · 13 years ago
    Having just left AF in DEC08 I can agree that the ANA are widely respected by the populace as free of corruption and feared by the enemy as fierce fighters. The catch is in the logistics: the ANA isn't getting enough training and support (fire support, fuel for vehicles, etc) to be able to operate completely independent from ISAF. I did numerous foot patrols with the ANA and saw their platoon leaders doing all the right things, even on humanitarian aid missions.

    That being said, they most certainly do need more support and the need for more ANA and ANP on the ground is very obvious to everyone familiar with Afghanistan.

    Keep up the good work, Michael. Your truth is recognized by those people who are there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    membrain · 13 years ago
    Thanks for posting that rebuttal Michael. Quite frankly that Brit testimony sounded fishy to me. There is no doubt that things currently are bad in Afghanistan but not as bad as some would have us believe.

    For another valuable source of information in Afghanistan I recommend that you contact Vampire 6 - see this post by him: http://afghanistanshrugged.com/2009/0 /11/ett-mutt-soldiers.aspx#Comment

    It's very informative and goes to your point about the SF not being used fro what they were trained for. The National Guard is now doing the job of the SF as ETTs, with minimal training and even less support. But in this case they're doing it very well. This is a story that needs to be told because these guys are out there on the edge where more needs to be done.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Talismen Lady Templa · 13 years ago
    As always - God bless you for your efforts Michael ! I had hoped to hear something from the other side of this issue.

    Per your request, I've linked this dispatch (at my forum).

    Please tell our troops we're behind them, and never forget about them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Butcher · 13 years ago
    Col Hix' assessment is quite different than your's. Hix obviously felt the need to provide rebuttal. He wouldn't bother to do that if you weren't influential. Blogger Lt Jones also supports Hix' viewpoint. Glad you published both. Good dialog. Need to go back to school on why the difference.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kephas · 13 years ago

    As a Dad of a U.S. Spec Ops Marine, I depend on your blog for my comfort. Your first post on this issue offered very little encouragement. I am however encouraged by Col. Hix and his rebutal. I agree with the other reader: "Why the huge canyon between you two?" I think that discussion offers your readers more dialog.

    Col. Hix, thank you from our hearts. Take care of your brave young men fighting the good fight.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marinepapa · 13 years ago
    This is a perfect example of why I try to send MYon $25 a month. How many news sources, journalists, commentators have you come across that post on their own site, blog, webpage, etc., messages directly contradictory to their own position ?

    Ya, that's right. . . maybe one or two - max.

    This is how we know we are getting the straight scoop by reading Michael.

    Keep up the good work MY.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Delores Covert · 13 years ago
    Many years ago Russia withdrew in defeat. ?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Delores Covert · 13 years ago
    Right on, Marine Papa. Kudos, Michael. A reader from the beginning.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    S. Kohler · 13 years ago

    I would like to echo one of the previous emails. As a father of a 19 year old being deployed to Afghanistan as of just last week, I open your emails with hesitancy. I respect you and will continue to support your work, but it hasn't made me feel comfortable knowing a soldier like yourself sees trouble where my son is. When I read Col Hiix email, I felt better about the situation. My son was so ready to serve his country over there and defeat the enemies of the United States. I want to read about continued success and adjustments to the enemy. Thank you for including this correspondence and thank you for your own honest opinions. I know there is no agenda on your part. Thank you for your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gerald Utterback · 13 years ago
    I agree with COL Hix. The ANA are better than they get credit for, do they need improvement? yes, and with the right training and mentoring they can and will hold their own. We had Kandak's from the 209th Falcon CORP fight with the units in the south and the reports we got back from the US soldiers, were they fought very well and brought credit upon the 209th CORPS. I was there for one year helping train the CORPS in 2006 to 2007. The 209th had soldiers KIA and I believe the 209th CORPS had the first KANDAK CSM KIA during my time there. Bottom line is we need more soldiers both US and OMLT's to train the ANA as well as the ANP. The weak link in my opinion is the shortage of personnel to train the ANA CSS and CS assets. Yes, progress is slow but we are making progress one day at a time. Our soldiers as well as the OMLT's are doing the best they can, especially with all the caveats they are working under. Be safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan. Engl · 13 years ago
    Michael, thankyou for posting the opinion of Col Hix. Its vital to get the real story and your blog offers one of the few reliable sources.

    As always when you get back in harms way, take it steady.

    Regards Barry
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Rotramel · 13 years ago
    A plea to commenters about the use of acronyms. For those of us not directly involved in ongoing operations overuse of acronyms can be very confusing. Please spell them out so the rest of us can follow along and learn what they mean.

    Best to all of you on the pointy end--get some for me!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Radoslav · 13 years ago
    Hi Mr Yon!My name is Radoslav I'm 2 and live in Bulgaria.You may recall where this country is or you may not and maybe it doesnt matter much.I learned about your blog and decided to take a look.I guess you are often busy with your duties there but nevertheless I would like to engage you in a civilised conversation about the war in Iraq.I'd be glad if you find time to do this because Im sure it'll be very educating for both of us.Like many I too follow the world events and whats going on making sense of life this I guess you do too when you sat down after a day of duty.So I'd like to know about your philosophy about that war and you know not your opinion but your philosophy about it.What do you think you and the US army do there?What is the purpose of this war?You know if I were you risking my life and the life of others I'd really ask myself at least one time while I'm there what I'm here for indeed.Every soldier has to have a cause, right.Well I think that every soldier is being told the purpose of his dispatching to somewhere and obeys orders and so on and so on but I want to know what you think about the war not as a soldier obeying orders but as a human being after all all we are such before anything else.Please let leave the everyday concerns about operations, informations, abbreviations and so on and "lets talk 'bout war".So what do you think?Please, give me a feedback at least to know if you'll have the time at all about this.And as I wrote it'd be fun you can be sure.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Formerly known as Sk · 13 years ago
    Michael, it seems to me that the argument over the capabilities of the Afghan Army mirrors the old argument over the capabilities of the Iraqi forces. Those who wish to see the glass as half full point out that the forces are operating effectively at the tactical level and those that wish to see the glass as half empty point out that they cannot operate independently. The truth, I assume, as it was with the Iraqi forces is that both statements are indeed true because the "glass" is at the halfway point. The important point as I see it (which favors the "half full" approach) is that the "glass" is being "filled." I look to you and others whom I trust and I know understand this to tell me whether progress continues to be made. As long as a strong and capable Afghan Army, dedicated to the democratically elected government, is ultimately coming into being, the future of that country is promising.

Reader support is crucial to this mission. Weekly or monthly recurring ‘subscription’ based support is the best, though all are greatly appreciated.  Many methods are available to keep the work rolling. Click the image for a more info.



Quick Link to Paypal

Recurring Donation

QR Code

QR Code


To support using Venmo, send to:


My BitCoin QR Code

Use the QR code for BitCoin apps:


Or click the link below to help support the next dispatch with bitcoins: