U.S. Troops Watch TV Shows Cops, NCIS to Train Afghan Security

Training locals is cited as a reason to stay in Afghanistan 16 years after the war started.



Some American soldiers in Afghanistan have taken to watching shows like Cops and NCIS to figure out how to train Afghan security forces, a sobering reality nearly 16 years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan.

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a particuarly bleak 283-page report on "Reconstructing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: Lessons from the U.S. experience in Afghanistan."

Sopko found the U.S. was "ill-prepared to build the war-torn country's security forces, whose foundation is ravaged by decades of conflict, illiteracy and corruption," as the Washington Post reported.

American troops found themselves with inadequate training to train Afghan security forces in large part because, as the SIGAR report noted, "police development was treated as a secondary mission for the U.S. government." Troops have in some cases turned to police procedurals because they provide something familiar in a jumbled training environment.

U.S. efforts, for example, rely on cutting-edge technology and weapons systems, even though large parts of the Afghan security forces are illiterate. "We really do need to align capabilities to the needs of Afghans," Sopko told the Post yesterday. "Effective security forces are basically the way this thing ends."

The U.S. has been training Afghan forces since the start of the war and it remains a primary reason for the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan. That Sopko's report criticizes U.S. soldiers for being unequipped to do this training casts a shadow on the entire project. It is also a powerful argument for ending the war in Afghanistan.

"If you're just waiting to train the Afghans to be policemen and the military," Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told Reason almost five years ago, "it's taken 11 years already—you can train a monkey to ride a bicycle in less time."

The U.S. is not prepared to rebuild Afghanistan, and may never be able to, but its continued presence disincentivizes locals from trying to rebuild by themselves and take their futures into their own hands.