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New Afghan army woos recruits
October 19, 2004 13:49 IST
Afghanistan has stepped up the process of raising a new national army having representation from all sects to forge an "apolitical force," said international trainers.
The raising of the new army has been speeded up with its strength already shooting up to 16,000 troops, Brig Gen Richard Moorhead, head of the US-led Task force Phoenix training the new Afghan army told visiting Indian journalists.
"We are screening the personnel to ensure that bad apples don't find their way in and that ethnic balance is strictly maintained," he said. The force would be deployed at its peak strength of 40,000 to 45,000 personnel by 2007.
He said screening was being done to ensure that no remanants of al Qaeda, Taliban or other fundamentalist elements find their way into the force.
It is going to be an army with an "international flavour," assert US army trainers.
The new Afghan National Army would have balanced representations of all sects like Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbek, Hazara as well as smaller minorities like Ismailis, and they would pledge allegiance to the constitution instead of political or royal figures, they said.
"Past blunders leading to the fall of Republican President Daud Khan and Socialist Najibullah will not be allowed to be repeated", said the US trainers, referring to the Soviet infiltration of Daud Khan's army in 1978 and the subsequent mass desertions leading to crumbling and ultimate downfall of Najibullah regime in 1993.
The new army would be five corps strong, with three deployed at Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad facing the vulnerable Durand line border with Pakistan, and two in Tajik Northern area and Herat to the west facing the Iranian border.
The army, Moorehead said, "would also have powerful motorised and heavy weapons detachments, but at present there is no no proposal to have a fighter based Afghan Air Force" implying that US-led coalition forces would continue to give vital air support to land forces in the landlocked nation.
"We propose to give Afghan a small tactical airlift capability of smaller two engine cargo planes with a 3,000-man Air Force," he said.
Members of the new Afghan National Army have already begun to take on major tasks of disarming the warlord armies as well as participate in strike operations against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants along with American special forces.
The new army would have NATO rank structure and the international training group includes detachments from US, UK, Romania, Mongolia, Bulgaria and France.
Pointing out that the doctrine of the Afghan National Army was essentially to "deter and defeat terrorism within its border," Brig Moorehead said a command and control headquarters had been finalised in all five major regions of the country.
In August, members of the Afghan National Army were flown to Shindand Air base between Kabul and Kanadhar to disarm Tajik Commander Ismail Khan militia and retake the airbase.
"The Afghan army is now capable of being deployed anywhere in the country via Coalition or ISAF aircraft", the American General said. However, it is not allowed to operate on its own, and all units are accompanied by embedded trainers from the task force Phoneix.
Afghan experts believe that the acid tests for the new force would come when they are tasked to take on heavily motivated fundamentlist terrorist groups on their own.
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