Inspector General: Literacy Training Of Afghan Forces Has Limited Success

Jan 28, 2014

An effort by the international coalition in Afghanistan to teach Afghan security forces to read and write has had limited success and has been plagued by problems, a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction finds.

The $200 million effort was funded by the U.S. and after more than three years of the program, the report found that about half of the members of the Afghan National Police are still illiterate.

Literacy is seen as an important tool in rebuilding the country. Here's how Lt. Gen. William Caldwell explained it to Morning Edition back in 2011: "If all you want to do is tear something down, like the Taliban, then you don't have to have any kind of literacy level. If you're trying to build something up and sustain it, then you're going to have to instill literacy into the force."

Caldwell said it's about basic things like being able to measure and read instructions.

Coalition officials told the inspector general's office that the program can be considered successful if the Afghan force totaled 148,000, as was predicted in 2009, when the program started. At the current authorized strength of 352,000, however, the goal of teaching all recruits to read at a first-grade level by the end of 2014 may be "unrealistic" and "unattainable."

One of the problems is a high level of attrition — 30 to 50 percent — which makes it "unlikely that all of the personnel who passed a literacy training level are still in the ANSF."

The inspector general also found problems with the expectations and oversight given to the companies contracted out to carry out the lessons.

"The lack of defined requirements for classes and length of instruction resulted in one contractor billing for classes held for as little as two hours a month and for multiple classes at one site that could have been combined into one class," the report reads.

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