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The petulance of international handlers in the Afghan army

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The relationship between US instructors embedded within the Afghan army and police is not good. The US and NATO instructors seem more like petulant handlers that have failed to form strong ties of trust and common cause with the Afghans under them. And that’s part of the problem, the Afghans are under them.

The cost of the Afghan army and police is greater than the entire government revenue of Afghanistan, and the US government has OKed doubling of this already too expensive and sadly incapable army. The US and Europe pays for most salaries, siphoned through UN agencies, they call most of the shots and seem to stifle any sense of independent pride, independent decision-making, independent responsibility, and collective identity regarding defence of a country they have had little to no hand in creating.

This video seems to suggest some sort of cultural deficiency on the part of Afghan soldiers: as lazy, lacking discipline, and drug addled. Afghanistan, however, has had centuries history of fighting and pushing back major armies: the Soviets once, the British Empire twice. The Northern Alliance’s disparate groups of fighters under regional warlords were more effective despite lacking a coherent overall strategy. The Taliban and Mujahideen were able to continue fighting the Soviet army of 100,000 soldiers for a decade until that world power was forced to retreat. The Taliban and insurgents of today continue to conduct effective irregular warfare and have been retaking ground they lost in the 2001 invasion.

The problem then cannot be as presented in the video as what is at best a cultural slur against Afghans in the current army being inherently incompetent and in need of Western tutelage to learn basic tactics of fighting. It seems more that they don’t want to fight. They have next to no opportunity to establish their own principles of combat; many oppose the Taliban but do not support their government which is domestically seen as hamstrung by and often fully dependent on foreign powers, and they have no clear notion of what they are fighting for.

It’s not enough to fight against something, like the Taliban. What’s to come next? What do these Afghan soldier wish to see realized in their country? It seems they feel they don’t have a say in this, nor does it seem clear what sort of state Afghanistan will be after the US mission in Afghanistan is completed (or defeated).

In the video, one of the US handlers tells the Afghans that they should fight in disciplined fashion and realize that they could be a global player. A global player? Is this what Afghans want? It seems to me that the handler was rather expressing the importance of Afghanistan in US global geostrategic plans. Afghanistan needs healthcare, a sustainable economy. People need jobs, education, clean water, and food.

The same handler tells the Afghan soldiers that they need to be independent so they can stand up to countries like Iran. Again, this is an expression of US desire thrust on the locals. Many of the Afghans in the army, especially in the north, have close ties to Iran. Local markets in the west are tied to Iranian ones sometimes even more so than central Afghan ones. Many of the people speak the same language as Iranians and share a common culture and history. They don’t necessarily see Iran as a hated enemy nor can they afford to have a cold or hot war with their neighbours on whom they depend for access to international markets (Afghanistan is land-locked).

Click on the links below to for more information on:

Imposing Peace and Prosperity on Afghanistan

Afghanistan Asks for More Say Over Military Deployments in its Territory

Video Brief: Afghan Refugees, NATO Air Strikes, and Early Elections

Fatal Incoherence in Afghanistan

Afghanistan on life support – background on the current war

History of the Taliban and the current war in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Video: Child Labour in Afghanistan: 37,000 in Kabul Alone.

The Taliban’s Sanctuary in Pakistan: the FATA

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