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The Cultural Dimension of Building a Military: Lessons Learned from Afghanistan's Training Mission


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Each society has a specific system of values that constitute the core element of its distinctive culture. Every institution within any society must fit in with the particular societys values in order to be effective and tenable. As a result, certain Western institutions and principles cannot be applied to cultures with very different core values. Afghan society's core values result in a distinctive culture characterized by a high degree of authoritarianism and traditionalism, a large number of diverse collectivities within, and a very low literacy level. The NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan approached the creation of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from an strictly Western point of view, according to what coalition officers thought Afghans needed rather than what Afghans were able to handle. The resulting capability gaps within ANSF are a consequence of this unrealistic end state, which results from a lack of a cultural approach during the problem framing phase at the strategic level. Understanding the critical effects of Afghan cultural singularities could have helped acknowledge the convenience of a less complex and sophisticated ANSF, more suitable to the Afghan mindset and resources, and less dependent on external support and sustainment.



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