May 12, 2010

ANA Leaves Little Reason to Smile

Thursday will see a meeting between presidents when Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai spend nearly the whole day exclusively together. Obama in particular will repeatedly emphasize his trust in Karzai and transferring control to the Kabul government in 2011.

And on the same day, maybe the day after - possibly tomorrow now that the leak has sprung - the International Crisis Group will refute much of what Washington continues to sell the American and Afghan people.

Add it to the list.

"Ethnic frictions and political factionalism among high-level players in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the general staff have stunted the army's growth," says its new report. “As a result, the army is a fragmented force, serving disparate interests, and far from attaining the unified national character needed to confront numerous security threats."

"Despite billions of dollars of international investment, army combat readiness has been undermined by weak recruitment and retention policies, inadequate logistics, insufficient training and equipment and inconsistent leadership. The U.S. emphasis on rapid expansion of the army, in response to the growing insurgent threat, could strain (the U.S.-led military training program) and outpace the capacity of Afghan leaders to manage an inherently unwieldy system."

The report also takes aim at the relationship between Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, a Pashtun, and chief of staff Gen. Bismullah Khan, a Tajik. That the army is shaping up a majority of Tajiks and minority of Pashtuns, leaving Tajik soldiers to police the Pashtun south, is a well-known paradox in the cornerstone of US strategy.

And at an even deeper level some Kandaharis see the Taliban insurgency in Kandahar, “as a rivalry between members of the largely excluded Gilzai tribe, which has always been heavily represented within the Taliban, and the traditional elite Durrani tribe to which Hamid Karzai belongs.”

ICG claims ethnic divisions within the army and police have, “caused deadlocks over control of staff, resources and operations, severely impeding the army's development has also fueled corruption within the MOD (Ministry of Defense) and ANA and bred subversion within the military."

Just something to remember during Washington's Karzai Parade.

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