Efforts to recruit Pashtuns from the south falter? - 09-13-2010, 12:12 AM
By JULIAN E. BARNES
KABULóRecent initiatives to recruit more southern Pashtuns into the Afghan security forces have faltered, leaving Afghanistan with a critical shortage of soldiers familiar with the Taliban's main strongholds in the country's south.
Afghan military officials had hoped that stepped-up recruiting, meetings with senior southern Pashtun leaders and efforts by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to increase security in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand would increase the number of Pashtuns signing up for military service.
So far, the efforts appear to have backfired.
In January, southern Pashtuns accounted for 3.4% of recruits that month, falling to 1.1% in July and 1.8% in August.
Last month, just 66 of the 3,708 Afghan recruits were Pashtuns, U.S. officials said.
Overall, Pashtuns account for 43% of the Afghan army, but very few of them are from the south.
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the head of NATO's training command, and other senior NATO military officials said they hope new recruiting initiatives that will begin this week in the south will help.
One involves sending Afghan officers from the southern provinces back to their hometowns to try to sign up others.
The Obama administration has made recruiting a broadly representative security force a cornerstone of its Afghan strategy.
Military leaders and analysts believe the Afghan army's long-term strength will depend on its ranks reflecting the general population.
More immediately, without Pashtuns, the U.S. faces hurdles in carrying out its main operation aimed at pacifying and securing a swath of southern Afghanistan from Kandahar to the central Helmand river valley, where the Taliban, a Pashtun-based insurgency, have deep roots.
Soldiers familiar with the local area are much better at collecting intelligence, ferreting out the enemy and strengthening ties with local leaders.
Mark Moyar, the research director of Orbis Consulting and an occasional adviser to the command in Afghanistan, said if the U.S. and Afghans could recruit more southern Pashtuns, they may be able to reduce the violence in the region.
"Southern Pashtuns have much better rapport with the population in the areas where most of the fighting is taking place, and are therefore very valuable," he said.
Gen. Caldwell had requested that Afghanistan's ministry of defense consider a program akin to the U.S. National Guard, where people could serve in military units close to home.
But Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has rejected that proposal, fearing that could create a strong militia group outside Kabul's control.
Others have argued a southern national guard could turn out to be more loyal to the Taliban than to the Afghan government.
Instead, Gen. Caldwell has pitched another plan, also modeled after U.S. Army practices, that would give southern Pashtuns a choice of serving in the two Afghan Army Corps that are stationed in southern Afghanistan.
After eight months of disappointing recruiting results, Mr. Wardak agreed to the new plan.
To ease concerns in the Afghan government, the new recruiting plan places a 10% cap on the number of southern Pashtuns in the units based in the south.
A spokesman for Mr. Wardak couldn't be reached because Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense was closed for the Eid holiday.
The Ministry of Defense also plans to send out four teams of officers and senior noncommissioned officers to four critical districts to launch a new recruiting drives.
The "hometown recruiting teams" will be made up of officers and noncommissioned officers from southern Afghanistan. They will attempt to sign up other men from their hometowns.
The U.S. training command has also proposed offering a two-month bonus of $300 for all southern Pashtuns who sign up.
Although the U.S. would pay for the bonuses, Mr. Wardak has so far turned down that plan.
Gen. Caldwell said the plans are modeled on efforts in the U.S., where the Army sends soldiers back to their hometowns to recruit friends and new enlistees are given the option of a job of their choice or home station of their choice.
With all the plans put together, U.S. commanders hope the southern recruiting numbers will reverse their decline.
"I hope in the next few months we will see a turning of the tide," he said.
Write to Julian Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Why do we complain then?
09-13-2010, 12:14 AM
Link to the above: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...0827425774.htm
09-13-2010, 01:16 AM
Ok, my Queen - now enough of these aphorisms for once. I don't think joining the army in any way you look at it would be simply equating yourself to taking orders from foreigners. Things don't quite simply work like that. We need more Pashtuns to join the army as the ultima ratio of our power and security will be in this army - and dominating our security environment itself will be instrumental in our international relations and believe me it wont be that of taking orders but earning ourselves prestige. Simple. The sooner the better. You wont have an army of Taliban again, never or some form primitive tribal levies that would make you proud. So better to work you way through it - the doors are open, go in there take reponsibility and then kick the foreigners out. Unless we don't have believe in ourselves. We/you/him/her have won the war, lets not fail the politics as we always have.
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