Perhaps most disappointingly, Admiral Mullen just put out a letter to the services in which he expressed concerns over the quality and/or appropriateness of many of the volunteers. So not only are we short of willing candidates, but many of those who have signed up probably aren't suited for duty in a program of this type, and we're faced with the reality that there probably just aren't enough of those people around. (Sort of reminds me of the argument that "unnamed captain in the Pentagon" made on Ricks' blog a few weeks ago: we need more Special Forces! Like, 700,000 of them! And they need to be special!)
The military’s effort to build a seasoned corps of expert officers for the Afghan war, one of the highest priorities of top commanders, is off to a slow start, with too few volunteers and a high-level warning to the armed services to steer better candidates into the program, according to some senior officers and participants.
The groundbreaking program is meant to address concerns that the fight in Afghanistan has been hampered by a lack of continuity and expertise in the region among military personnel. But some officers have been reluctant to sign up for an unconventional career path because they fear it will hurt their advancement — a perception that top military leaders are trying to dispel as they tailor new policies for the complex task of taking on resilient insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Apparently the Af-Pak Hands program, designed to create from scratch a pool of language-trained area experts to help fill critical billets related to the Afghan war, is having some trouble getting going. As it turns out, one of the big problems is a.... lack of language-trained area experts. And some other stuff, like the significant disincentive to volunteerism that comes from a career-killing five-year commitment to a program that no one understands well enough to fit service there into the context of a competitive rating system.