Fu­tile Ef­forts

Is the Afghan Na­tional Army ready to face its big­gest chal­lenge yet?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Ta­hera Sa­jid

Afghanistan is cru­cial to the se­cu­rity of the re­gion. That re­quires, amongst other things, a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity for pri­mary se­cu­rity to the Afghan Na­tional Army (ANA).

Afghanistan has a long his­tory of in­ter­rup­tions in its po­lit­i­cal process due to tribal ri­val­ries and vi­o­lence, ex­ter­nal in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion and the ex­is­tence of tribal mili­tias. The coun­try’s his­tory of re­sis­tance against for­eign in­vaders and in­ter­nal in­sur­gen­cies rides si­mul­ta­ne­ously with crip­pling is­sues of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and il­lit­er­acy. Only 28% duc­tion (UNDP, 2007) paints a bleak picture for the coun­try’s al­ready un­cer­tain fu­ture.

In 2002, re­al­iz­ing that strength­en­ing ANA was cru­cial to ush­er­ing sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan, US and NATO forces be­gan train­ing and or­ga­niz­ing the ANA. Hav­ing achieved some ma­jor ob­jec­tives of the War on Ter­ror (WOT) and with an exit strat­egy sched­uled for 2014, build­ing the ANA’S ca­pac­ity has as­sumed more im­por­tance. Over the years, NATO and US train­ers have faced nu­mer­ous chal­lenges due to post-soviet era chaos and the vio- in­ef­fec­tive cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

Clearly, no quick so­lu­tion is pos­si­ble. A re­port ti­tled, “It’s Start­ing to Look a Lot Like an Army,” pub­lished in the LA Times, quotes Colonel Lep­pert talk­ing about the dif­fi­culty of the job, “We are build­ing an air­plane while the air­plane is fly­ing.” While prais­ing the hard work of the Afghan troops, the re­port de­scribed how the “Afghan com­man­ders and sol­diers com­plain of poor pay, faulty weapons, am­mu­ni­tion short­ages and lack of pro­tec­tive gear. US train­ers, while prais­ing Afghan sol­diers for

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