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CBC spins Afghan army stats

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Canada’s national broadcaster aired a short piece on the shaky promise of calm in Kandahar this evening, but it was the framing of the piece that merits attention. The Afghan National Army is getting stronger, the segment suggested. Canadian forces have eased on engagement, leaving the fighting to the ANA itself. By any account, the report gave an impression of a strengthening national force, when quite the opposite is taking place.

Unsurprisingly, Ottawa Citizen defence reporter David Pugliese offers a more sober assessment of the ANA based upon a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. Some of the key findings are as follows:

-Only two of 105 ANA units are fully capable of operations.

-Thirty-six percent can conduct their own operations but need routine international support.

-No ANA unit is fully capable of conducting its own missions.

-$10 billion (U.S.) has been spent over the last six years on training, equipment and recruiting.

-Some problems in training are the result of some NATO members not wanting to send more training personnel. (This certainly does not apply to Canada, which has just donated another mound of automatic rifles to the ANA and continues to train both the ANA and police force.)

-The U.S. focus on Iraq has contributed to the shortfalls in equipment and training for the ANA and ANP.

  • The Pentagon has rejected the GAO’s findings and says the program to build the ANA and ANP is successful. (The Pentagon are clearly not the only ones rejecting the GAO findings, if we are to take the CBC National report at face value.)

These details are slightly at odds with the CBC report, which has yet to report on the GAO findings. There was coverage in April, however. The CBC headline read: “Afghan National Army will be strong enough to take over by 2011: U.S. general.”

“By about 2011 there is going to be some pretty good capacity in the Afghan National Army,” NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Dan McNeill is quoted as saying. Two pictures emerge then. Those established by Canadian media outlets, and those established by internal sources. The notion of monitoring positions of power seems to have alluded even the most seemingly sober CBC assessments of the current “calm” in Afghanistan. If criticism of the outlet has become trivial, it makes it all the more necessary.

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