The development of such a large Afghan force was set in motion by President Obama’s decision to approve a surge of 30,000 U.S. troops in late 2009.
In the early years of the war, the United States and allied nations participating in Afghanistan’s reconstruction agreed to create a 70,000-strong army from scratch. That target grew modestly in 2007 and 2008, but the actual strength lagged far behind because the George W. Bush administration did not commit the necessary funds or personnel.
The police force was in even worse shape. By 2009, there were approximately 95,000 men wearing police uniforms, but at least half of them had not received any training. They were ill-equipped, and many were more focused on collecting bribes than protecting the population.
In mid-2009, as the insurgency was expanding across the country, two U.S. military studies concluded that Afghanistan required a far larger army and police force — to work in partnership with allied troops and to take charge once the foreigners left. Relying upon counterinsurgency doctrine, which calls for a ratio of one counterinsurgent for every 50 residents, one of the studies determined that Afghanistan needed a combined force of 400,000 to address parts of the country with Taliban problems. The studies devoted less attention to the question of whether the United States and its allies were capable of building such a large security force in a country with no existing military structures, widespread illiteracy and a raging insurgency.