U.S. and international forces in Southwest Afghanistan are shifting their training of Afghan troops from general combat know-how to specialized skills, a Marine general who recently led troops in the region said Wednesday.
Afghan combat units are "about as good as they need to be," and "it's going to take an institutional solution to continue to develop them," Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus said at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
International forces now are helping Afghan forces develop leadership abilities and build specialty battalions such as in artillery, intelligence, logistics and engineering, he said.
Gen. Gurganus said international forces are still providing support in five key areas — precision use of heavy weapons, medical evacuation, severe trauma medical support, countering homemade bombs, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Complicating the training effort is the high illiteracy rate in the region, he said.
"The problem that I think continues to plague us in overall insurgency terms is the fact that there's about an 85 to 90 percent illiteracy rate," he said. "It makes it very difficult to train policeman when they can't read. And the illiteracy rate is just a challenge across the board."
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