A senior advisor for the Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan spoke to the Rotary Club of Manhattan Thursday about his personal experiences in the country since his deployment in December 2010.
Edward Faircloth is the senior advisor for the Ministry of Defense Public Affairs, Afghan National Army, and has been in Afghanistan for the past year-and-a-half. He is assisting with the NATO training mission to prepare the Afghan National Security Forces to progressively assume responsibility for Afghanistan’s internal security.
In a speech to club members, Faircloth shared photographs of the sights he sees routinely, including images of his walk from Camp Eggers to the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, the young girls who try to sell him jewelry and the Afghan officials he works with closely.
One of those officials is Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, Afghan deputy chief of the Ministry of Defense for Public Affairs.
“He’s the face of a very troubled land,” Faircloth said, adding that Afghans such as Waziri show that the Afghan National Army is capable of bringing peace to Afghanistan.
He told club members that as they think about the billions of dollars that have been spent on the Afghanistan war, “at least the money is being spent on people I personally believe are the nicest folks on earth,” he said.
“My time in Afghanistan has been by far the most fulfilling period of my life,” he told club members, joking that he lives in a room at Camp Eggers the quarter of a size of his previous apartment’s walk-in closet.
His speech comes approximately a week before the NATO summit meeting in Chicago that will focus on financing Afghan security forces for 10 years after the NATO mission ends in 2014. Faircloth said there is a proposed goal of $4.1 billion to be paid out in increments. He said he hopes the NATO coalition will continue to have a presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of troops and said the recently signed strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan was a very big deal. He said the agreement was vague but stated the U.S. will continue to have a presence in Afghanistan.
“[The Afghan National Army] is a good quality army and they are well-equipped,” Faircloth said. “But there are so many variables, things that might happen that would cause them to become so fractured.”
Those variables, he said, involve the success of peace negotiations, relations with Iran and Pakistan and how much funding they’ll receive as decided by the NATO summit in Chicago.
Faircloth said the Afghan officials he works with are nervous they’ll be abandoned financially. He said Waziri holds weekly press conferences in Kabul and the first question he is always asked is the ability of Afghan forces to protect the people.
Illiteracy and attrition are issues within the Afghan National Army, Faircloth said, adding that only about 5 percent of new recruits, of which there are 10,000 in training presently, can read. NATO workers are teaching many to read at, at least, a first-grade level, he said, partly so that they can read training manuals. He also said the NATO coalition is continuing to work on eliminating Afghan soldiers going AWOL.