Afghan Army Training Slowly Working

At least 13 people were killed in Afghanistan Sunday after insurgent attacks on security forces in Kabul and Kunduz. One gun battle raged for hours and ended when the last attacker blew himself up.

CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy reports the attacks come amid mounting pressure for Afghan troops to step up.

Azeem Turkman is a private in the Afghan army. A former shepherd, he has his own unique way of finding roadside bombs.

"He will just go and jump in the canal…and yank it out of the ground and carry it," says Staff Sgt. Christopher Carney.

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It's a quick way to get blown up, say the Marines who are training him and the other Afghan soldiers here.

"It scares the hell out of us, the way he grabs [improvised explosive devices]," says Carney.

"I do it," says Turkman, "to serve my country and to make money for my family."

There are a lot of things these 32 Afghan army recruits do that make the Marines nervous.

"Muzzle awareness and keeping the finger off the trigger can be an issue at times," says Sgt. Jim Morse.

Corruption and abuse of civilians is common among the Afghan forces. The Marines keep a close eye on these soldiers during their daily patrols.

The Marines here say that one of their most challenging tasks is training the Afghan army but they stick at it because they know that ultimately that is the best strategy for getting American forces home.

The U.S. and its NATO allies want to increase the Afghan army and police force from 240,000 now to 300,000 by the end of 2011 and make them better able to defend themselves against the Taliban.

There are high desertion rates, heavy drug use and widespread illiteracy. The U.S. now runs reading and writing courses for many of the recruits.

"Once you come out and start training with the Afghans, you gotta start from the ground up," says Morse. "You gotta build that foundation from scratch."

In a classroom competition to learn how to strip down their guns they couldn't stop taking short cuts.

"There are certain disciplines you have to have," says Carney. "They are brave as heck. It's just the training, the technicalities of the whole thing."

After three months of training, these Afghan soldiers have improved considerably. But defending their country without American help? That, say the Marines, is still very much a work in progress.
  • Terry McCarthy

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