From William Caldwell, the New Atlanticist:  Five months ago, Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed wrote in the Washington Post, “the best way to bring our troops home sooner while succeeding in Afghanistan is to build a stronger Afghan military and government.” Since we stood up the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan over 21 months ago, we can say that developing the Afghan forces is well on track.

Through a NATO command, 33 countries are dedicated to the mission of training, equipping, fielding, and partnering with Afghan forces. Over the past two years, an additional 113,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been trained and are working with 130,000 NATO. Taken together, the NATO-Afghan force has enabled the start of geographic transition that will continue through December 2014. In seven areas of Afghanistan, encompassing 20 percent of the population, Afghan Army and Police are already leading security efforts.

As Afghan forces are readied to assume more security responsibility, combined NATO-Afghan operations are also clearing insurgent strongholds in Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz and normalcy is slowly returning to areas that only knew war. Local militias are integrating into the formal security structure; commerce is returning; and schools are opening. GDP has increased from $170 under the Taliban to $1,000 per capita in 2010, almost all Afghans now have access to basic health services (only nine percent did in 2002), school enrollment increased from 900,000 (mainly boys) to almost seven million (37 percent girls), and women now serve in government. There are even four female officers training to be pilots. Further, most of the country is now connected via mobile phones, highways, and common purpose—assume responsibility for its own development, governance, and security. . . .

In support of this effort, there are about 500 NTM-A advisors who work at the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. These advisors support their Afghan counterparts to ensure the necessary policies and systems are in place to implement strategic guidance from the President of Afghanistan and the ministers. This work includes everything from creating a modern personnel system that can identify, track, and manage personnel across the military and police to a comprehensive recruit screening process that vets, validates, and certifies Afghans’ eligibility for training.

Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV., United States Army, has served as the commander of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan since November 2009.