Despite efforts to diversify, the military remains dominated by young men with ties to former mujahedin factions. General Akhtar, who once headed the Afghan border security forces, tells RFE/RL that a drafted army could help remedy this by drawing on a larger pool of recruits.
“Conscription is a very good idea because it can contribute to strengthening national unity,” he says. “When [ethnic] Uzbek, Hazara, Turkmen, and Tajik soldiers live and eat together, they know that they are all working for the common goal [of defending their homeland].”
Akhtar, however, says a draft will only work now if the recruits are offered adequate financial compensation, because Kabul still does not control all Afghan territory and without sufficient incentives fewer youths are likely to answer the call for national service.
Few former Afghan security officers think it’s that simple.
…Jalali, who served in the Afghan military for 20 years before switching over to the anti-Soviet mujahedin guerillas after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, doesn’t discount that a return to a conscript army is in the country’s future, however. He says it could prove to be a good change for Kabul, saying “it will reintegrate the population into one nation” while serving as a “school for civic education” for people from disparate regions and backgrounds.
Jalali, a professor at the Near East South Asia Center of Washington’s National Defense University, also suggests that a draft army could attract better talent and help forge a factionalized force into a national one. But Kabul has a lot to do before it can reach that stage, he warns.
“The bottom line is the government should win the trust of the people to have an army that can fight for that government,” he says. “And any army that is created to support a government which does have this response of the people is not going to work.”
2010-02-10 16:57:05 UTC