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The Taliban Jailbreak and Afghanistan's Future: Realism About What's Achievable

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
April 25, 2011
New York Times

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Prison breaks make for gripping movies and eye-catching headlines. The elaborate tunneling effort that allowed perhaps 500 inmates to escape undetected from Sarposa prison is noteworthy but hardly shocking — particularly since a similarly spectacular escaped occurred at the same prison less than three years ago.

As this incident demonstrates, despite some progress Afghan security forces remain ill prepared to assume responsibility for protecting Afghanistan. Underperforming Afghan security forces have consistently been the most difficult issue for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), even as it approaches its current goal of 305,000 trained Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces by October 31, 2011.

Fundamental challenges include poor leadership, absenteeism, attrition, and illiteracy — indeed, for a country where 28 percent of the population can read fewer than 5 percent of fully-trained national police members are literate, according to the U.S. Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

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