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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Monday, May 23, 2011

DOD News Briefing with Jack Kem from the Pentagon

COL. DAVID LAPAN (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations): I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room for the first time Dr. Jack Kem, who serves as the deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan [NTM-A] and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. We're glad to have him here with us from Kabul, where he is directly responsible for NTM-A's literacy, gender initiatives, integrity building, and rule of law programs. He is also the lead coordinator with foreign embassies and outside agencies.
Dr. Kem assumed his duties in Afghanistan some 18 months ago, when he arrived with Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, who you know, back in November of 2009. He remains on a leave of absence from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he serves in concurrent appointments as the director of the Land Power Studies Institute, the Commandant's Distinguished Chair of Military Innovation and the Supervisory Professor of Joint Interagency and Multinational Operations. An accomplished researcher and author, he has made significant contributions to both Army and joint doctrine.
Dr. Kem will make some opening comments, and then we will be happy to take your questions. With that, sir, it's all yours.
DR. KEM: Well, thank you for the kind introduction.
I've had the great opportunity to work for Lieutenant General Caldwell since November 2009, as NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan stood up as a command.
In the past 18 months, there's been a dramatic increase in both the quantity and the quality of the Afghan National Security Force, which consists of both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The size of the Afghan National Army has increased from 97,000 in November 2009 to over 164,000 today and will continue to grow through 171,600 by the end of this summer. The Afghan National Police has grown from just under 95,000 in November 2009 to 126,000 today, and will continue to grow to 134,000 by this fall. This total growth represents an increase to the Afghan National Security Force by over 98,000 in the past 18 months.
But there's been a dramatic increase in the quality of the Afghan National Security Force as well. And one of the areas that I've had the opportunity to oversee is the literacy program. As you may know, the literacy rate for incoming soldiers and police officers is about 14 percent, meaning that 86 percent of our recruits are unable to read and write at the third-grade level. This has been an enormous challenge.
In November 2009, 18 months ago, we had only a voluntary literacy program, with less than 13,000 enrolled. Today, literacy is mandatory for basic training in both the army and the police, and there are literacy programs throughout the country to address basic literacy and numeracy.
Today we have over 81,000 Afghan National Army and Police in mandatory literacy classes, and we have graduated another 92,000 in different literacy classes since November 2009. We know that we will improve the literacy rate in Afghanistan in the Afghanistan National Security Forces to over 50 percent by January 2012. Our goal is to have full functional literacy in the army and the police. "Functional literacy" would be defined as third-grade level literacy. This has a huge impact on the professionalization of the army and the police, addresses issues of corruption and will have an economic impact on the country in the years to come.
And literacy is but one area we've been addressing -- not only the quantity of the Afghan National Security Force but also the quality of the force, which will enable the transition of lead security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
And with that I'll pause and be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, thank you for coming. Let me ask you that -- when you're talking about training the Afghans and the -- do you think they will be ready by the end of the year or now, when we're talking about July withdrawal or changes coming in July or by next year? How much you think Afghans have trust and confidence in their own police and force? Because many think that you should not leave or make changes then.
DR. KEM: OK, a couple of things I'll address in that. First of all, the end of 2014 is the transition date for the lead security responsibility. Not next year, not this year, but the end of 2014. So December 31st, 2014 is the transition of the lead security responsibility in all 34 provinces to Afghanistan.
And in my personal professional judgment, we will have the Afghans ready to assume that responsibility. However, as General Petraeus says, there is a four-star action officer who'll be responsible for any of the recommendations made to the president, and the following determination will be made by him.
Q: And if I may just follow up quickly?
DR. KEM: Yeah.
Q: As far as Osama bin Laden, of course, talk of the town everywhere. Any changes you see among the people of Aghanistan or in the forces?
DR. KEM: None that I can perceive at all. But I -- let me go back to one other thing you asked now that you said that, for -- about the talk of the town. If you look at the polls that take place -- there are a number of polls that have taken place in Afghanistan over the last couple of years. Asia Foundation has done a poll. UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] is doing a poll. ABC, BBC, and ARD News have done polls.
And if you look over the pattern the last couple of years, the number one trusted institution in Afghanistan has been the Afghan National Army. Number two has been the Afghan National Police. And we've seen a slow but steady trend where that trust has actually increased.
So I think in terms of the people's trust that they have in the army, the police, keeps growing. And so I think that's an encouraging sign.
Q: Given the serious problem of corruption throughout Afghan society, what is being done to try to ensure that the Afghan security forces aren't also plagued and tainted by the same kind of deep corruption that the government --
DR. KEM: Well, there's a number of things that they're doing. One thing is the literacy I was talking about. Literacy is a huge thing in terms of corruption. You know, if you can't count money, if you don't know how much things cost, then you are dependent on other people to help you.
And so just increasing the basic literacy across the force, we think, has a dramatic impact in terms of corruption. So that's one of the impacts we've done.
There's been a number of issues that've taken place over the last couple of years, and that is in terms of the Afghan National Army and police have developed codes of ethics. And so we've taught that in the courses and embedded that through the professional education courses that take place.
There's been a number of issues we've done also throughout the force, some individual steps. For example, there's an anti-corruption phone line you can call, it's the 1-1-9 number. And so you can call that number; it's manned 24/7 . Somebody can call that number and say, OK, I see instances of corruption. And it's investigated by an independent actors, or by an independent agency who actually investigates that, and passes that on to investigators.
There was something where we put blue fuel -- you know, there's a blue dye that we put in the fuel. The purpose of that is, if you drive around and you have blue fuel, you stole it. It belongs to the army and the police. So we've dyed that, and that provides at least indicator of where that fuel came from.
And so that's some of the many things we've done. One other case I think is a great issue we've done is in terms of a lottery for assignments. (Inaudible) -- adding transparency and accountability in different assignments, what we did at the national military academy last year, done it two years in a row.
We took all the assignments, put them in a box, people came up, the graduates did, and they pulled the name -- they pulled their assignment out of their box and said, OK, here's where I'm going to go. That way you couldn't buy your assignment. It was also watched, observed by an Afghan general as well as an American general. They recorded it -- they actually sign on a piece of paper -- and we brought the press in so the press could see this process.
And then after they had gone to their new assignments, we go back about three months after that and check to make sure they're going where they were supposed to be going, to make sure their assignments -- do a follow-through.
So there's a number of things we're doing throughout the force to try to have transparency and accountability. One of the things that I think will be interesting, also, as we are now having full accountability of all the vehicles, weapons, and radio systems that we didn't have full accountability in the past. We've gone back and made sure that we had, you know, the issuing document, make sure the issuing document matches where the maintenance was done, make sure they match where they're assigned for, and then do a physical inventory.
And so we've just completed that physical inventory for all the vehicles in Afghanistan that have been issued in the last 10 years. And some of that is just an accountability step to make sure that we know where everything is, where it's supposed to be. And make sure that if they're getting fuel issued to those vehicles, there's full accountability for it.
So we're installing those types of things.
Yes, sir.
Q: Wondered if you could talk about a couple of things that have been plaguing this effort for some time. One is recruiting southern Pashtun, that's been a problem. How is that going? And the other thing is the attrition rates for each of these areas, ANCOP, army and the police. And if you could -- if you have a sense of the attrition by region as well, because I think they try to lump it all in together, but I think in the south the attrition might be worse than other areas.
DR. KEM: OK. Let me talk to the first one, is that as you know, every one of the battalions in the army and the ANCOP, which is the Afghan National Civil Order Police, is ethnically balanced. And so the ethnic balance, you know, looks at the percentage we have of Pashtuns, of Tajiks, of Hazaras, and the other ethnic groups in that. And we balance every one of the battalions.
But you're right, one of the problems we have is the southern Pashtuns, because you can be from the northern province and be a Pashtun or from one of the five provinces. As a result, what we have done is we have instituted with the Afghans a special recruiting program towards the southern Pashtuns, where we watch very closely those numbers to have them go up.
They have risen slowly, but they're not where they need to be. We're trying to get at least 4 percent of the recruits being from the five southern provinces that are Pashtuns, and aiming for getting about 6 to 8 percent in the next couple years.
But it is a problem. It's one of those areas that we're trying to do more recruiting and more incentives and the Afghans are addressing that issue.
Q: Is the problem simply that it's the center of the insurgency, so these guys fighting against you, not --
DR. KEM: That's part of it and also, you know, it's just -- I think it's the center of the insurgency, I think there's also because there's just been recent gains in the last year and a half, after Operation Moshtarak started pushing people south. And so I think there's still some reticence about whether to join the Afghan National Army or the police as compared to other areas of the country.
The second question was about --
Q: The attrition rate --
DR. KEM: OK, the attrition rates. The attrition rates are still too high. And so the attrition rates -- you know, 18 months ago the attrition rates were very, very high, particularly in the ANCOP. And the ANCOP --
Q: Say, 75 (percent), or --
DR. KEM: Well, the ANCOP was about 70 percent one month when we first came in. The number has slowly gone down to 30 percent, and then this last month it's gone down well below that -- but one month does not a pattern make. But we're now about 1.8 percent per month. You annualized that to get the overall percentage.
What we worked at is try to get to 1.4 percent monthly rate which annualizes to 16.8 percent, is the attrition rate we think is sustainable. As long as we're below a 20 percent then we know that we're sustainable. And we are below that level right now for all the forces. So we've had some great encouragement.
And let me tell you why we've done that. Part of that is because we've increased the pay a year and a half ago. The partnering that has taken place I think has had a dramatic impact, and also we worked with a rotation policy to rotate forces out of the fight and into a training, and also to take their leave. So I think those kinds of steps have made a difference, as well as we've worked on the quality of life, which I think has another impact to increase the retaining of the forces and reduce the attrition.
Q: What was it about the ANCOP, was it just overused?
DR. KEM: ANCOP had a number of things. They were overused, there weren't enough of them -- we've just about doubled that force. And none of them were partnered a year and half ago. And now having a partnered force that stays with them and helps assist in their continued development we know makes a huge difference.
Yes, Jim?
Q: Dr. Kem, there's been a recent uptick in violence, attacks by Afghan police and soldiers, particularly on Americans as the targets. Is there any way possible to actually vet these recruits, to try to weed them out? And was there any investigation to go back, in these cases where Afghan police or soldiers were involved in these attacks, to identify what mistakes may have been made in the process or should they have been identified as potential enemy earlier in the process?
DR. KEM: OK, thanks. Actually, we've -- this is an area we're very conscious of, as well as the Afghans are conscious of. And so one of the things we've instituted is an eight-step approach for all the new recruits coming in.
That eight-step approach, and I don't have all the eight steps in front of me, but it looks at their ID card, makes sure they match, it has two letters from village elders, it has a physical examination, it has a records check they do through the intel sources to see if there's any instances of them being reported having a problem. They do a biometric, and they check for biometrics -- there's eight separate steps that are being done to make sure that everybody has been vetted as they come in.
So that is one area that's been a major concern. All the investigations, every time an incident like that takes place, there's a joint investigation. the joint investigation includes the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and also ISAF forces that together look and see exactly what's the case is going.
And some of the cases, you know, some are things that really have no relationship to what we call the green-on-blue, but it's because there is a personal problem that took place or other issues. But we look at those very closely, look at what steps could have been taken place to prevent those kinds of events taking [place] in the future, and everyone is fully investigated.
It will never be foolproof. It's not foolproof in the United States; it won't be foolproof in Afghanistan. But I know it's an area that we look at very closely and is investigated very carefully. And it is something that I think the Afghans take very seriously as well because they want to be good partners as well.
Q: Are you confident that this system that's in place will be able to weed out any potential enemy -- Taliban, al-Qaeda --
DR. KEM: No, I'm not confident 100 percent because I don't think any system's foolproof; so I'm not a hundred percent confident that we'll weed out everything, but I am confident that this system is the best system we can do now.
We're very careful to -- if there's anything else we can do, we're more than willing to look at it, and we're being careful to do it. As you know, General Caldwell also addressed the issue of counterintelligence agents. And so we do have counterintelligence agents that they've trained, and these are standard -- just like you'd have in the United States Army -- counterintelligence agents that look to see if something is wrong, see if there's some kind of instance to look and see if there's a pattern that doesn't make sense, and then to investigate those things.
But no system is foolproof. I am confident, though, that this is an area we take seriously. It's an area that if we knew another area to do or another step -- if we need to go to a nine-step approach, we'd be more than happy to do that if we felt like that was necessary.
Q: And I'm sorry, just one more: Has this system identified potential enemy who have either been discharged or taken into custody?
DR. KEM: It has identified, particularly through the biometrics, people who were involved in other activities. The biometrics have come up and that person has been further investigated and not allowed to come in. So we have been able to find some people.
One of the things I didn't tell you about too -- which is somewhat unrelated, but it's part of the process -- we also do a physical examination because one of the issues that exists, you know, as part of this step approach -- we do a physical examination and make sure that what we're bringing into the army or police also is someone who's an adult, and this is to keep from having the children come in. So there is a physical examination to make sure the recruits have the physical characteristics of an adult; if not, they're not accepted. So it's part of that process as well.
Yes, sir.
Q: (Inaudible) -- counterintelligence part of it that General Caldwell spoke about in London a couple weeks ago -- who are these individuals? Are they taken out of training to become counterintelligence, to look on their other -- you know, the other recruits? Are they recruited separately? Who are those individuals?
DR. KEM: They are taken from the regular training base, just like we would a signal officer or a signal specialist or artillery specialist. Someone who has a -- you know, the key determinant is that -- well, I guess there's probably two key determinants: One is they're literate -- and, you know, the literacy is for the special skills requires a higher-level literacy, regardless of what that skill is -- and that they also have passed all the vetting without any difficulties.
But they are taken from the main stream, from the force that comes in; they're not anything special.
Q: Sir, who is -- who are the people that are doing the literacy training?
DR. KEM: That's a great question.
Literacy training is all done by Afghan instructors. So we have Afghan instructors -- about 2200 Afghan instructors. They are certified by the Afghan Ministry of Education. The curriculum they teach is one that we developed, get together with the minister of education; it's the same curriculum as taught throughout the entire country for adult literacy. They also give the same examinations throughout the country. But they are Afghans, about 2,200.
Today it's paid for primarily by the United States -- for the funds for those literacy instructors. However, the NATO has developed an Afghan National Security Force Literacy Trust Fund, and that literacy trust fund will be used to pay for the cost of literacy education over the long term. And you may have seen in the news about a month ago, the United Arab Emirates provided the first donation of $10 million to pay for those Afghan instructors.
Q: Can you give a ballpark figure of how much has been spent on this so far?
DR. KEM: $88 million. Is that a good ballpark? $88 million.
Yes, sir.
Q: Hi, yes, thank you. I was hoping you could provide an update on the shooting of six Marines in Lashkar Gah. They were trainers -- May 12th? The condition of the four survivors and if anything had shown up in preliminary investigations you could speak to?
DR. KEM: I left the day after so I do not know any facts on that. I left on the 13th of May to come here, so I don't know.
Q: Yeah, sir, can you -- is there any differentiation in terms of who the applicant pool is to join the police versus to join the army? Any patterns that you see?
DR. KEM: Well, we've done a couple things differently. You know, the army is a national force, and so anybody that joins the army is recruited nationally and then they're assigned nationally. For the police, we have two different forces. The Afghan National Civil Order Police, which is a gendarmerie-type force, they're recruited nationally and then they can be sent around nationally because they're a force that can be moved around.
But local police -- the Afghan uniformed police -- are recruited in the same region, trained in that region and reassigned in that region. So there is a different applicant pool in terms of the ethnicity. The ethnicity -- if you're a uniformed police or, you know, the police that are in community policing -- they're from that area, that's where they're recruited, that's where they're trained, that's where they stay.
Now, in terms of literacy, which is one area -- I know the numbers are 14 percent for the Army is the literate rate, 14 percent for the police. We've seen no difference at all in terms of what's taking place here. So in every measure that I know of, they look like they're roughly the same. It's a sample from the same population, no major differences other than the fact that police -- many of the local police or the uniformed police want to stay in their area, that's where they stay.
Q: If I can just follow up, is there anything you can point to specifically that command has done since November '09 that sort of changes how police and army were recruited in the past, just in terms of tactics?
DR. KEM: Yes. Oh yeah. Well, one of the things we did is, in November 2009, the pay scales were different, so there was a different pay scale for the police and for the army. And so one of the first things that we did is we made the pay scale the same, so a brand new private and brand new patrolmen get the same pay scale at the basic patrolman [rate].
And then we have hazardous duty area. So if you're in the south, where it's more dangerous, there's a hazardous duty pay. But it doesn't matter if you're police or army; the hazardous duty pay is the same.
There's also something we've done just in the last couple of months is expeditionary pay. So if you're expeditionary -- if you move from one place to another and you -- for the ANCOP or the Afghan National Army, you can get the extra expeditionary pay.
Now, the pay for the basic patrolman and basic soldier is $165 a month. If you're down in the south, the highest amount that you can get for hazard duty pay is $75 a month. So $240 is what we would pay a brand-new private or brand-new police officer down in the southern areas.
Q: I'd to start one last one there. Are you -- do you have access or do you -- are you able to share casualty rates -- I know we talked about attrition rates, but casualty rates among the police and army at this point?
DR. KEM: I don't know right off the top of my head. I do know the casualty rates are higher for the police than they are for the army.
Yeah. Yes, sir.
Q: You said the literacy standard is third-grade education. You know, that may be OK for the privates. Are you -- what -- are you doing anything to build an NCO corps – and require -- and technicians? If we start to bring over more equipment to them --
DR. KEM: Absolutely.
Q: -- we're going to need - they're going to need more technical training.
DR. KEM: Well, the incoming police and soldier are 14 percent literate. What we've done is we've made first grade as the mandatory literacy classes we have in basic training for army and police. Sixty-four hours get them to first-grade level. And then as they go to specialty training, we try to get them up to third-grade level. Our goal throughout the whole army and police is get everybody up to third-grade level because that's functional literacy or the definition of functional literacy.
For the other specialty courses -- you know, as we have developed to different specialties, we've looked at each one of the specialties and said, OK, what are the requirements that are needed? What grade level do you need? For example, at the highest grade levels we need is for people who are in aviation maintenance; needs a higher-level education than third grade. If you're an artilleryman, an artilleryman needs, you know, higher math skills than others might. If you're in human resources, probably higher literacy skills.
So we have looked at all the specialties and looked at what we need in terms of the minimally sufficient level of literacy needed for those specialties. But the goal, first of all, is to get everybody in literacy classes, get everybody at least to first-grade level as they come in; and then get the whole force up to third-grade level, which requires us to go back in the force; and then as we do the specialty training get people up to the higher levels that are needed.
For a noncommissioned officer, it requires third-grade level. You can't be a noncommissioned officer without third-grade level. So that's one of the minimum requirements. And of course, for the officers, we have the -- college level's what's needed, or at least a high school level. For the National Military Academy graduates, that's a four-year college graduate. So it's tiered throughout, just as you would expect.
OK. Yes, ma'am?
Q: What other kinds of training are you involved in besides literacy?
DR. KEM: OK. There's a number of other areas which we're doing. One of them is English-language training. English-language training is absolutely important, particularly as we're developing the air force. Now, English is the language of international aviation, so all the pilots need to be able to speak English. And so we do speak -- we do a lot of the English classes. It also provides opportunities to go to other schools in the United States, the U.K., other places. So we do teach a lot of English. We're now teaching also a number of, like, computer literacy classes, teach people how to use the computers and such.
Of course, what we have is, every day we have about 34,000 people in training throughout the army and the police -- you know, about 24,000 in the army, about 10,000 in the police -- and those numbers are what's being trained for the all the basic skills and for the follow-on skills throughout the force. But for the education classes that are over and above the standard classes, probably English, computer literacy, and of course the big one is literacy classes.
Q: And who is training -- who makes up those trainers? And do you have -- are you at 100 percent for the training?
DR. KEM: Well, we're not at 100 percent for training because we've -- you know, as we've had this growth of the forces, we've also had a growth of the training requirements.
And so the trainers -- one of our focuses we have this year is the Afghan trainer, you know, because the intent is -- is for us not to do all the training, but for us to be an overwatch and help to train the trainers that takes place. So we have work to do certification, five different levels for training -- trainers for the Afghans. We've started this military instructor course that's just started. We have Afghan trainers different places. And just like you might see in the U.S. Army, we have guys with black hats that show they're -- they're like master trainers like you see at Fort Benning, Georgia.
And so we have the master trainers going in but, you know, we still have a shortfall of the right number of trainers that we have because it just takes time to develop them. So that's one of the issues that we have as a shortfall in the next couple of years, is to continue to focus on training the Afghan trainers, getting more trainers in the base, and we become more and more in the overwatch and where we're helping to assist and to help with resourcing, but letting them take more and more of it, which is part of this transition process.
Q: And are we -- are United States forces training, and also NATO forces?
DR. KEM: Well, you know, we're a NATO command, so NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, which has -- you know, over half of it is with the U.S., but it's all coalition. And we have over 30 countries that are involved -- 33 countries today involved in the whole training.
Most of the training, though, is being conducted by Afghans. We're the training command that helps to assist with the trainers and the resourcing and setting up the courses and assisting the Afghans in the ministerial development. So -- and that's a big change in the last 18 months, is the coalition forces, including U.S., have been more and more in the background, more and more thinning out, and more of the Afghans taking the lead on it.
Q: Can I just follow up on that?
DR. KEM: Sure.
Q: For quite some time, as you know, there's been a shortfall of trainers. NATO was supposed to kick in "X" number of trainers. I talked to General Caldwell, I think, last spring, and he said if we don't -- if we don't get these trainers by a certain date, you know, U.S. soldiers are going to have to fill in. Where are we on that?
DR. KEM: Right. Well, we had a -- last month, there was a force generation conference took place in Brussels. I attended that force generation conference. And we looked at the additional trainers needed. There's still a shortfall of some 400 trainers that's needed.
Q: This is specialty trainers?
DR. KEM: It's almost all specialty trainers. It includes trainers for police, trainers for the aviation and trainers for some of the explosive ordnance. It's a number of areas. We're generating more of the forces, but there still is a shortfall of some of the trainers. We haven't fixed all of them. The Canadians provided a great number of trainers, as you may have seen, so the Canadians have done the trainers. And we're looking at trying to get other countries, particularly as they start to thin out their combat forces, to roll into the training to assist us. But it does require specialty skills. You know, you just -- it's not privates training; it's mostly officers and noncommissioned officers.
Q: Is there a drop-dead date for those -- that 400, or is it just over the course of the next year or two or three?
DR. KEM: That's -- that is --
Q: The question is what -- if you don't get them from NATO or elsewhere, at what point are you going to have to bite the bullet and say we're going to have to get them from the United States Army or --
DR. KEM: That's really my call. I mean, so I think, though, the issue is the drop-dead date -- I don't know what the drop-dead date is because it is a growing requirement. It has an impact on the quality. That's where I think it matters. You know, if you -- if you don't get all the trainers, then the quality of the training will diminish somewhat. And so I don't know how you quantify the total amount, but we do need more trainers. Not all the trainers have been met. And we still continue to work for NATO to get those additional trainers that are needed, and they're specialty trainers.
Yes, ma'am.
Q: Why did this only begin 18 months ago? We've been there nearly a decade. Who was responsible for training before, and why wasn't it happening then?
DR. KEM: Well, there are a couple of reasons why. You know, first all is NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan didn't stand up until the 21st of November. So that came out of the conference in Strasbourg, the NATO conference, which decided that NATO would say, OK, we're going to take this as a mission. It's a different mission what you saw in Iraq, what's in Afghanistan.
But honestly, what's happened I think in the last 18 months is there's been a change in the resourcing. I think that many of the people before were good, hardworking people trying to do their job, but it wasn't properly resourced. And, you know, one of the things I tell people is that we stood up on the 21st of November; 10 days later, President Obama gave his speech at West Point and decided to do the surge and decided to devote the resources. And so those things together, I think, helped.
The other thing that's not -- that's not well known is the Afghans also, I think, threw in. The Afghans made a difference. They realized, OK, it's serious; here's our chance. President Obama has provided additional resources. We started receiving the additional resources in money, as well as in the trainers. NATO was committed. President Obama provided the extra surge forces needed to come in. And I think those things converged and we took it seriously.
So it's not because people were bad in the last -- you know, last nine years. It's just it was last November or December, or November-December 2009, when it became a priority and was properly resourced.
Q: I thought I heard you say you'd just finished a physical inventory of all of the vehicles that have been issued in the last decade. Is that what you said? How did you do that, and how did that turn out?
DR. KEM: We looked at -- I'm trying to think if I remember exactly the four areas. We looked at the documents that they were issued on, and then we looked at the training records -- I mean the maintenance records, and then we did a physical check of the hand receipts that were done, so how they were signed for as they were issued on out, and then we had a physical check of the vehicle serial numbers, or the VINs, vehicle ID numbers, against those documents. And then we did a reconciliation of those documents.
We found there had been some vehicles that had been destroyed. So some of those vehicles had been destroyed but they had not been taken off the books, and so there were proper procedures taken place to show they'd been destroyed and didn't need to be accounted for. And so that was the process we did for those vehicles, and it was a concerted effort by coalition as well as by the Afghans to make sure we had -- we knew how many vehicles had been issued, so -- Q: How many was that?
DR. KEM: It was roughly 45,000. And so we knew how many vehicles had been issued; we just didn't know exactly, you know, where all of them were and the full accountability to make sure -- had not done the full reconciliation. So did the full reconciliation, looked at it. Now, admittedly, it wasn't a hundred percent, but it was well in excess of 95 percent. So we have looked at it and we'll continue to work that.
Q: But 95 percent that are still there, are still being used, being used properly by the correct people; is that what you mean?
DR. KEM: Ninety-five percent we can account for.
Q: Can account for. So they might have been destroyed or --
DR. KEM: Right. Right. That's correct. I mean, it was a small number destroyed, but there were some that were destroyed that were still on the books, that we didn't have accountability for.
Q: I'm just a little surprised to hear that some of the things issued 10 years ago are sort of still in operating condition.
DR. KEM: Yeah, it's the same thing in the U.S. Army, too. We have vehicles that were issued 10 years ago still in operating condition.
Q: You've mentioned also that you're trying to do inventory of weapons. That was something that early on there was a great problem with; you know, it would be issued and then not only the weapon, but the soldier, would disappear. You know, what's your record now? How well are you keeping track of the weapons inquiries?
DR. KEM: Well -- and I'm a little bit out of my lane here, so I'm going to be very careful about what I say, because this is with the programs guys. But the same process is taking place with the weapons, to make sure all the weapons are done . Now, there is different accountability for weapons and there is an end-use monitoring and accountability for weapons on a regular basis, but that's to check for the serial numbers.
We're trying to make sure that the accountability exists, too, where there's hand receipts, maintenance records and full stewardship, so the system exists, particularly for the weapons, even though there's been physical counts by serial numbers over the years with weapons, because weapons are considered differently, because of the Arms Export [Control] Act, than they are just vehicles and communications gear.
Q: Let me ask you one more thing quickly, sir. As far as training is concerned, what role India is playing? And also my earlier question: As far as Osama bin Laden's death is concerned, do you think more and more people are coming and laying down their arms and joining the police force or the Afghan National Army, because now they don't have any commander to lead them?
DR. KEM: OK. India is not a formal partner of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. So their role, which no doubt takes place, is not a part of the NATO Training Mission, and they're not part of the contributing nations. So I really can't answer the question on India's roles.
In terms of laying down because of Osama, I can tell you that since November -- or since December 2009, when President Obama made his speech, we've had roughly about 8,000 recruits that we've had every month that come in to the Army and the police; about 6,000 for the Army, about 2,000 for the police. Those recruiting numbers have been very, very high. Our percentage filled we have for the training base is running about 95 to 97 percent, and, you know, of course there has to be a reset because of -- between classes.
So for us to run 95 to 97 percent means we're busting at the seams as we're building new facilities to do the training. So we've not had a problem in getting the number of people for recruits, at least as of yet, since December 2009.
Yes, sir.
Q: Thank you. A recent human rights report raised serious questions about the civilian casualties caused by Afghan forces on Afghan civilians.
DR. KEM: Right.
Q: How does that factor into training? And there was problems with the -- kind of the Afghans tracking that themselves. What's being done in that regard?
DR. KEM: Yeah, the Oxfam report that you referred to, we're very familiar with, had 14 recommendations in it. All 14 of the recommendations in that report are being -- in the process of being implemented and have been. It's important to note that report was written over a 10-year time. It's not a snapshot from now, but it's over an entire period since 2001 for that entire report.
And so the training that we have for CIVCAS [civilian casualties] -- CIVCAS is an issue, it's an important issue, regardless of who causes it. If it's either caused by the coalition, by Taliban, or caused by the Afghan security forces, it's a loss of life, and we're there to protect human life.
And so it is a concern. It's part of the training program. It's part of the -- it's emphasized throughout the police and the army training program. And the Oxfam report highlighted some of those issues. It also highlighted -- since November 2009, used that date on the second page -- there's been dramatic increases, and what we have done to address these particular issues for Oxfam.
So it's a good report, generally OK, but it's important to remember it's written over a 10-year timeframe, it's not a snapshot that's just right now.
Q: Yes, sir, going back to the screening of applicants very quickly, you mentioned, I think as one of the eight steps or eight parts, physical health. I was just wondering if there's a mental health component as well, or is that --
DR. KEM: That's part of it. It's a medical doctor that does that. So a medical doctor does that, does the examination. And he checks to see if there's any instability, also. And he just -- just like the United States Army does the same thing, a medical doctor does an immediate check on that.
But there's other couple of things that we do, and one of them is we have two letters from village elders that say, yes, this is a good guy and we trust him, we know his dad, and he's a dependable partner. And that's one area we also look at. So somebody has to vet for the individual as well as the physical examination.
And then as they go through training, everyone is alert because there is concern. There have been incidents that have taken place, so people are well aware that you need to make sure that if you see the unusual or abnormal, then you report it. So those steps are in place.
Q: You mentioned as a result of the biometrics, people have been excluded. Do you have any numbers or percentage on how many are weeded out through these other steps that we're talking about?
DR. KEM: Not with me. I don't have them off the top of my head. It has been significant. It's been in the hundreds. I don't know the numbers exactly.
Yes, ma'am.
Q: Are the people receiving this training, the Afghans -- are they interested in the training? Do they like the training?
DR. KEM: Are we talking about literacy now?
Q: Literacy, yes.
Q: And the others.
DR. KEM: I will tell you that, you know, when you have such a low level of literacy -- you know, in the United States, where we have a high level of literacy, there's a bit of a stigma of having to take adult literacy classes. In Afghanistan that's not true, because most people do not have the literacy skills, so people are glad to have those skills. They're glad to do it. And so we find it's the number one motivator for people to join the army and the police, number one motivator to stay in, because they can learn to read and write.
And I will tell the one story. A sergeant major, you know, went down to Kandahar. And he went to go see all his -- all of his -- all the guys in literacy classes because he watched them closely. And one of the young privates came up to him and said, you know, I knew I had a lot of fingers. It's 10. Now -- I have 10. I can now count to 10.
And he was proud because the whole world opened up for him. He did not have the opportunity in the past. Now he's had the opportunity to learn how to write his name, how to count to 10, how to be responsible for going back and checking things himself, and it's just huge.
And until you see it, you can't see the excitement. But the excitement is just staggering, to see people carry a pen in their pocket because that means I can read and write. Because why carry a pen if you can't write. And you see little signs like that of how people are proud to take the classes. And then they want it, and it's a huge motivator.
Well, I want to thank you for your time. And thank you very much.

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