I think it is time to respect nations IDthrough thier tongAfghan Army Lacks Enough PashtunsUpdated: 96 days 21 hours ago
Despite a salary increase meant to keep pace with what the Taliban is paying its foot soldiers, the Afghan National Army is still having problems recruiting Pashtuns into its ranks, according to a senior U.S. military official.
The force's ethnic makeup is a "very sensitive issue," Army Maj. Gen. David Hogg, deputy commander of the NATO Training Mission, told reporters on a conference call about rebuilding the Afghan National Army.
A major goal of the troop surge that President Barack Obama announced last year was to help train the Afghan National Army and security forces so they can eventually take over when U.S. and coalition troops pull out of the country. Recruitment has been a major challenge for the nascent army in the past.
Chris Hondros, Getty Images
Afghan men sit on a long bench in a desperately poor Pashtun village near the Pakistani border.
Though recruitment numbers have been going up in recent months -- in part because of the pay increase -- the army still has problems retaining recruits and meeting the goals for overall ethnic composition. "Our biggest challenge is with the Pashtuns from the south," Hogg said. "We don't have a lot of Pashtuns from the south."
The Afghan National Army is supposed to reflect the multi-ethnic makeup of Afghan society, with specific goals set for each group. Currently, it is supposed to be about 44 percent Pashtun and 25 percent Tajik, with the remaining numbers divided among Afghanistan's other ethnic groups.
There have been long been concerns that Tajiks, who dominated the Northern Alliance, exert increasing control over the Afghan National Army. Currently, there is a disproportionately high number of Tajiks in leadership positions in the military, Hogg said.
Signing up more Pashtuns is considered particularly critical not only because they are the single largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, but also because they are the main ethnic group in the Taliban, which continues to wage war against coalition forces and Afghanistan's central government.
One of the ways that coalition forces are trying to address the Pashtun shortfall is by recruiting former mujahedeen fighters into the military; those recruits, who are often older, are put through an eight-week retraining course that helps integrate them into the Afghan National Army.
For now, at least, that reintegration course is not being targeted at former Taliban, Hogg said.
Recruitment and ethnic balance aren't the only challenges facing the Afghan military. Corruption, particularly the problem of Afghans paying for senior military positions, is still a problems, Hogg acknowledged.
"The facts are [that] positions are still being bought," he said.'I can't give you grand jury evidence, but it is happening."
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