WASHINGTON: A brigade of seasoned American soldiers has arrived in Afghanistan in recent days on a much-trumpeted mission to offer a new type of training — as well as motivation — to beleaguered Afghan partners.

Pentagon officials hope the deployment of hundreds of battle-hardened, expert troops across the country will help turn the tide in the war, but Afghanistan watchers are sceptical about how much difference they can make in the 16-year-old conflict.

Most of the troops in the so-called Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, have multiple Afghanistan combat deployments under their belts, speak some level of Pashto or Dari and — after having themselves undergone special training — have now volunteered to return.

“They are coming here because they are passionate about the mission,” Navy Captain Tom Gresback, a spokesman for Nato’s Resolute Support mission in Kabul, said.

The United States and Nato have already tried various training models for Afghan security forces, but even after all these years many units remain beset by corruption and desertions and are suffering horrendous casualty rates.

US officials have also tracked dozens of cases of reported human rights violations in Afghan security units, including several involving child sexual assault.

The Pentagon has been training partner forces in various conflicts for decades, and the approach has been buoyed in recent years by local forces’ successes against the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2018

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