Once the initial invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) was completed, the United States and its allies found themselves providing for the internal security of the two occupied countries. The defeated security forces of Afghanistan and Iraq melted away. The establishment and fielding of an army and police force in both countries took years to accomplish and ultimately yielded mixed results. At some point in both conflicts, there was a transition from the occupying forces doing the fighting to the host nation forces in the lead. The key to that transition was the training, equipping, assisting, and advising of the newly emerging security organizations through the use of trainers, mentors, and advisors.

Learning From Our Mistakes in Selection and Training of Military Advisors
MiTT advisor training Iraqi soldier. (Photo SPC Mike Molinaro, 2006)

In Iraq, the first attempts at establishing security forces did not go well. The 18 battalions of the Iraqi Civilian Defense Corps (ICDC) that were formed in 2003-2004 were a temporary measure. In many instances, the initial ICDC trainers and advisors were a hodgepodge mix of U.S. Army personnel such as cooks, clerks, and other non-combat personnel. One of the few exceptions was the formation of the 36th Commando ICDC Battalion trained by U.S. Army Special Forces.

The initial effort in 2004 to establish the new Iraqi Army by civilian contractors did not go well, either. Eventually the U.S. Army would deploy military training teams (MiTTs) to train and advise Iraqi Army units while U.S. combat units bore the brunt of the fighting. The initial fielding of MiTTs was from the reserve components—individuals randomly selected, assigned to newly formed teams, ill-trained, and poorly equipped. Within a few years, the MiTTs would improve significantly, but valuable time had been lost. Eventually, U.S. units ‘partnering’ with Iraqi units, the deployment of advise-and-assist brigades (AABs), and proper selection and training of MiTTs would bring about vast improvements in the U.S. Army’s advisory efforts in Iraq.

Learning From Our Mistakes in Selection and Training of Military Advisors
U.S. SFAAT medical advisor reviews battle map for tracking MEDEVACs with Afghan counterpart. (Photo by CPL Mariah Best, Dec 2013)

The training and advisory effort in Afghanistan shared many of the same problems as those in Iraq. In the first few years, Special Forces teams worked with irregular units called the Afghan Militia Force (AMF) as well as training up the initial kandaks (battalions) of the Afghan National Army (ANA). Later, while active duty conventional units were securing the cities and countryside, reserve component conventional units were charged with training and advising the Afghan Army. Training of the ANA took place at central locations in Afghanistan while embedded training teams (ETTs) advised and assisted Afghan units deployed throughout the country.