Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DeJa vu all over again: building an Afghan Army

From Reuters regarding President Obama's rather vague strategic goals for Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Topping Obama's objectives, according to a draft document obtained by Reuters, was improving Pakistan's counterinsurgency capabilities and building up Afghan security forces so that the role of the United States could be reduced.

But the document offered few specifics and set no target dates. It said the administration would assess its progress against the goals by the end of next March.

Now let's go off the net for the moment, and examine Thomas T. Hammond's Red Flag over Afghanistan, which is pretty much seen today as the definitive contemporary short work on the Soviet experience there:

From page 160, the sub-section entitled "The Disintegration of the Afghan Army":

The Soviets probably assumed that the Afghan Army would be of great assistance in suppressing the rebels, but they have been disappointed. In fact, one might say that the Afghan army has been a liability. Many Afghan soldiers, either individually or in groups, have deserted to the enemy, taking their arms with them. For example, in Kunar Province Colonel Abdul Rauf defected to the rebels with 2,000 of his men. In addition, there have been several mutinies. The continued infighting between the Khalq and Parcham factions of the People's Democratic party ahs been particularly ruinous in the army because Khalq traditionally has had more followers in the armed forces, and many of them resent the dominant position that Parcham nows has in the government. As a result of desertions, casualties, and the difficulty of obtaining new recruits, the Afghan army, which numbered about 90,000 to 100,000 at the time of the Soviet invasion, had dropped to about 30,000 by early 1981 and was still about that size at the beginning of 1983.

The Babrak regime has had to resort to extreme measures to draft recruits for the army, sending out impressment gangs to make house-to-house searches and conscripting youths fourteen years of age or even younger. In an attempt to prevent the army from getting still smaller, the government in January 1981 issued a new draft law that lengthened the term of service by six months, but this brought about riots in Kabul and mutinies by some army units. Low in numbers and morale, the Afghan army has been doing little of the fighting, and some of the officers have even cooperated with the rebels.

We--being Americans and wearing white hats--will of course have no such troubles in expanding the Afghan army and police to somewhere between a quarter and half a million men in a region marked by inter-tribal violence at a level that makes even the Sunni-Shi'a conflicts in Iraq look tame.

Nothing to worry about. Between them, President Obama, Admiral Mullen, and General McChrystal are collectively smarter than every general since Alexander the Great who thought he knew how to get these folks organized for his own purposes and not theirs.

1 comment:

G Rex said...

No, read The Great Game, by Peter Hopkirk, about the Russians and the British struggling for supremacy over Afghanistan, particularly over the invasion routes (khyber pass, etc.) to India. I'll loan you my copy if you'd like.