Half of Afghan Military Forces Won't Achieve 1st Grade Literacy Level by 2012

By Edwin Mora | May 9, 2011 | 4:01am EDT

U.S. soldiers on patrol pass the wreckage of a car after an explosion in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) training mission in Afghanistan predicts that only about 50 percent of Afghan military forces will be able read and write at the 1st grade level by January 2012, according to a Department of Defense report mandated by lawmakers.

ISAF “estimates that the 1st grade literacy level of enlisted soldiers and policeman [together known as the ANSF] will rise from 14 percent to over 50 percent in the next ten months,” states the congressionally mandated report, which covers progress in Afghanistan from the beginning of October 2010 through the end of March 2011.

That means that the illiteracy rate among the ANSF recruits is expected to drop from 86 percent to 50 percent by January 2012, ten months from the end of March 2011.

The ISAF training mission in Afghanistan will build on the 1st grade literacy level foundation “to develop more advanced levels of curriculum that will enhance the education level of ANSF and support more difficult requirements of the enabler force, such as medical and logistics,” the report stated.  

According to the DOD report, which was released last month, illiteracy remains a “key challenge” to having a self-reliant and professional Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), which is essential for the U.S. withdrawal and transition of security tasks to Afghanistan that is expected to commence this July.

Literacy among “losses through attrition” and “leadership shortfalls” are described as key hurdles in the report to moving Afghanistan closer to being “capable of independently providing security to the Afghan people.”

The goal of the ISAF literacy training is to bring ANSF personnel that cannot read and write up to a 1st grade level that “provides the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy.”

“Literacy training is now mandatory in every initial training course, with the goal to graduate each trainee at a 1st grade level,” stated the report. “Additional literacy training is provided in every professional development course, as well as in the fielded force.”

In the report, DoD acknowledges that a 1st grade literacy level “represents only a very elementary grasp of literacy (numbers, letters and some simple words).”

DoD pointed out that strides have been made to improve the 86 percent illiteracy level among ANSF recruits.

“Literacy is an important enabler to professionalize security forces, reduce corruption, increase stewardship, and increase recruiting,” the report stated.

In the last year, the ISAF Afghan training mission “has dramatically increased its literacy training for the [ANSF], and the number of ANSF personnel in literacy training has increased by 136 percent,” the report continued. 

“In March 2011, there were over 60,000 ANSF in literacy training compared to just 27,855 in March 2010.”

Last summer, a deputy commander for the ISAF training mission in Afghanistan said that illiteracy posed the “biggest” obstacle to training the Afghan forces.

President Obama has said the U.S. will begin withdrawing and transitioning security tasks to Afghans forces in July 2011. He has endorsed having Afghan forces in the lead of their own security by the end of 2014.

However, a U.S. commander told CNSNews.com that Afghan forces will be reliant on the U.S. military beyond 2014.

The education chief of the ISAF training mission in Afghanistan told CNSNews.com last summer that he was unsure when the ANSF will be fully literate.

According to the education chief, the literacy training program started in October 2008. The U.S. has spent well over $24 million on those efforts.

Despite the illiteracy challenges, the DoD report noted, “The Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) are broadly on track to meet targeted growth figures of 134,000 ANA and 109,000 ANP by October 2010 and171,600 ANA and 134,000 ANP by October 2011."

ANSF includes both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

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