‘Not enough’ trainers in NATO to help Afghans eradicate IEDs

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The question of what will happen in Afghanistan after NATO leaves looms large over the trainers.

Retired Army Vice-Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane, who advises top NATO commanders in Afghanistan, worries that NATO troops will bring all their bomb-hunting expertise and gear home with them, leaving Afghan security forces with little to combat homemade bombs.

Afghan troops rely on NATO for intelligence collection and analysis, and about 75 percent of roadside bombs found before detonation are detected by NATO troops, Gen. Keane said.

“If we pull the plug on that capability when we leave, and those numbers go down dramatically in terms of detection for [Afghan troops] to about 30 percent, that will [result in] a very significant increase in casualties for them over what they’re currently used to,” the retired four-star general said. “Those are significant battle losses, and the psychological impact will be equally as great.”

From January to May this year, 469 Afghan troops were killed, according to the latest Congressional Research Service report. During the same period, 181 NATO troops were killed, according to iCasualties.org.

Canadian army Brig. Gen. Thomas Putt, director of NATO’s development program for Afghan security forces, told reporters at the Pentagon on Aug. 1 that Afghanistan’s defense and interior ministries are backing a “major, major push” by NATO to provide training in dealing with homemade bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

“It’s going to be a major push for us this year. Logistics and counter-IED areour No. 1, No. 2 [concerns], and they’re interchangeable because they’re so important to moving the [Afghan security force] ahead,” Gen. Putt said.

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