February 18, 2006:
The Afghan army is now up to 35,000 troops, half its eventual 70,000 man size. The emphasis has been on quality this time around. Past Afghan armies have used quantity, or just contingents sent by friendly tribes, to serve as the king's "army." The current Afghan army is probably the best trained and most professional the country has ever had. This is being followed up on by keeping the emphasis on training. American, British, French, Mongolian and Rumanian instructors continue to work at a military base outside of Kabul, training Afghan troops. Afghan officers are attending military schools in the United States and Europe. Some Afghan officers are also serving in military-exchange programs (where they actually serve in the other nations army for a year.) This has proved very effective in building the skills of the exchange officers, while also improving cultural awareness.
The Afghan troops also gain a lot of experience by working with American soldiers and marines. The Afghans admire proficient warriors, and they like what they see when the work with the Americans. The Afghans understand that their ancient warrior tradition is no match for well trained professional soldiers. So the Afghan soldiers are trying to create a more effective hybrid. This could have interesting consequences down the line, if the national government is unable to continue ruling the entire country. That's another old tradition the Afghans would like to put behind them.