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Former Enemies Enlist in the New Afghan Army

Updated on February 21, 2010

 Both America and Russia have tried in vain to train armies modeled after themselves when assisting and providing military aid. Russia tried most recently in the 80s, in Afghanistan, when they forced themselves upon them with their invasion. America tried and failed with the training of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) in the 60s and 70s. They never got it right. In both cases, the army, despite the massive amount of equipment and training simply collapsed in the heat of battle.

So, despite hopeful rhetoric from Obama's advisors, once again, America will try the near impossible, actually, has been trying, to succeed where past history indicates it will fail: train a new Aghanistan National Army (ANA). Deja vu.

Ironically, and not for the better, the US strategy is to allow former foes (many trained by the Russians) to re-enlist in the ANA because of a lack of trained military personnel. Most of these were former officers in the Russian attempt, these were the guys the US routed out in 1987. Other members in command positions are former mujahadeen guerillas who fought against the Soviets and their Afghan brothers whom the Soviets recruited! This mix certainly should provide some excitement should old wounds open up again.

Most of the ANA's generals and colonels are former veterans of the Soviet Afghan Army, while its Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff were formerly mujahadeen fighters that fought against the Soviets and their proxies! The reason why the US is allowing this is simply out of need. Few men in Afghanistan have military training to where they can lead a brigade or regiment. It is a quick fix.

The ANA is now 100,000 men. It took a leading role in the recent offensive in Marjah and from most reports it remains in dismal shape, for without the US Marines prodding them, they have little desire to fight (exactly the same issue with the ARVN in Vietnam). The Afghan units are slow and only a few units at squad level are comparable to a fighting force. Most Marines have little praise for the ANA at this stage, and in 2011, they are suppose to take over. I think someone is in denial and in la-la land.

The motivation of the ex-Soviet trained officers is purely selfish, they are unemployed or were exiled, as General Popal was in India until 2008. The ANA has 19 colonels in their 50s and 60s, all Soviet trained. Most of these men were educated in Russia and still use the Soviet approach to training which clashes with American training (more freedom of low ranking officers to make decisions).

The Marjah offensive has shown that the ANA will never be able to hold their on by 2011, most think it will be 2015-18.



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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 8 years ago

      The ARVN held their own from 73-75 because the NVA did nothing much. The NVA were shocked how quick the ARVN collapsed inthe central highlands when their first attacks began in 1975. Even ARVN histories note corruption and no will to fight in many of the units and once panic set it, it became a lost cause. A few good units cannot do it alone. I think history will repeat again.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Perrya - I take issue with some of your history, as I was in Vietnam and we left in 1973 and the ARVN held there own until 1975 when our congress cutoff their supplies and esuipment. The units I worked with had a clear understanding of the need and the will to fight. Most of them got killed when they ran out of ammo.

      As for Afghan theater, it remains to be seen and I'm willing to give Gen McChrystal the benefit of the doubt, we have to transition from 2nd gen warfare to 4tgh GW not a simple task. You are right about one thing thou 2011 is way to soon.