Fear of being linked to U.S.-backed regimes that
lack authority has inhibited potential recruits in violence-prone Iraq and Afghanistan
from heeding calls to join nascent or rebuilding national armies, say U.S. academics
and political and military analysts.
"The challenge of creating national armies in both countries is fundamentally
linked to the challenge of legitimacy for the new [U.S.-installed] governments,"
Karns, who lectures on international organizations, foreign policy and diplomacy
at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
"Low legitimacy" for the governments of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan
and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq "translates into limited willingness
of individuals to sign up for the military, knowing that they might become targets
of groups opposed to either government," Karns told IPS.
Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Washington has been struggling
to create a 40,000-strong military force to take over security in the war-torn
But according to Brigadier General James Schwitters, who is part of the U.S.
command responsible for training Iraq's new army, only 3,000 of the soldiers
could be regarded as having been militarily trained, as of early August.
"Despite over a year and billions of dollars in spending, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and those he appointed for the mission in Iraq have largely
failed to reconstitute meaningful security forces and police," says Erik
K Gustafson, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War and director of the Washington-based
Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC).
Gustafson also argues that the U.S.- run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA),
which administered Iraq until June, failed to treat the Iraqi interim government
as a full partner or to provide Iraqi police and army forces with the equipment,
training, oversight and funding they need to operate effectively.
"The legacy of that failure remains and Iraqis are paying dearly in lost oil
revenues, crime, terrorism and other violence," Gustafson told IPS. "Given
the scale of failure and loss of lives and property, Rumsfeld should be investigated
for criminal negligence," he added.
According to a report released by the CPA on the eve of its hasty retreat from
Baghdad, Iraqi forces have 40 percent of the weapons, less than one-third of
the vehicles and about 25 percent of the body armor they need to operate as
an effective military force.
"I have more hope that Iraq may succeed in spite of the United States," Karns
said, because it is not only a more developed country than Afghanistan but it
also had a strong national army long before the U.S.-led invasion.
But the new Iraqi government, she said, has to stop the slide toward "Lebanonization,"
which has resulted in ethnic and religious feuds.
More than 500,000 people were killed in the ethnic and religious battles that
characterized the 1975-1991 civil war in Lebanon, most of them Christian Maronites
On Monday, the New York Times reported
that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte is urging the White House to reallocate
resources from infrastructure building in the occupied country and into improved
security and job opportunities for Iraqis.
The U.S. Congress has appropriated about $18 billion for the reconstruction
of Iraq, of which only about $600 million have been spent so far, added the
Negroponte wants a sizable part of the remaining funds re-channeled to help
pay for 45,000 new Iraqi police officers, 16,000 border patrol officers, 99
new border outposts and an additional 20 Iraqi National Guard battalions (totaling
about 20,000 troops). He is also seeking money for training and new weapons
for the army.
In Afghanistan, the United States, with aid from France, has succeeded in training
a new national army of more than 13,000 troops, but that is far below the targeted
Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
(UNAMA), told reporters in August there is a "significant expansion in
the size and competence of the Afghan national police force, as well as the
Afghan national army."
"This is very important," he said, "but they are not yet there."
"They are not close to reaching their total strength but this is much better
than what existed when this phase of Afghan history began two and half years
ago," added the spokesman.
Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir
Akram, told the UN Security Council last week that the Afghan national army
is still unable to cope with the security challenges in the country.
"The army suffers from what I would call an ethnic deficit and imbalance,"
he said. "Until the Afghan national army is in a position to provide credible
security, the responsibility of providing security in Afghanistan rests with
the international forces, in particular, the International Assistance Force
The ISAF, a multinational force consisting of about 7,300 troops from the European
and North American nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),
is confined mostly to the Afghan capital of Kabul. By the end of September,
when Italian and Spanish battalions join ISAF, total troop strength is expected
to rise to 8,300.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, attrition rates have also been high, with trained
soldiers deserting the military to join insurgencies in the two countries.
"The formation of the army [in Afghanistan] is incredibly slow mainly
because there is not much incentive to join what is perceived to be the weakest
armed faction in the country [except when the United States decided to back
it up with fighter planes]," says James Ingalls, founding director of the
Afghan Women's Mission, who is also working on a book about U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
Ingalls said Washington's tactic of "buying" warlords to fight the
Taliban, then awarding them seats in the government, has entrenched their power.
"The lack of a countrywide ISAF deployment and the halfhearted attempts
at disarmament have only made this dismal situation worse," he told IPS.
The Taliban, a group of Islamic extremists who ruled Afghanistan during 1996-2001,
was ousted from power by U.S. forces when they invaded the country in December
2001. Despite the efforts of thousands of U.S. soldiers since then, Taliban
forces have not been driven from the country and appear resurgent, claiming
responsibility for a car bomb in the capital Kabul on Sunday that killed about
a dozen people.
Taliban forces have also warned Afghans to boycott the Oct. 9 presidential
Karns said the difficulties in creating a new national army in Afghanistan
are also linked to the fundamental lack of security and the limited number of
U.S. and NATO troops to deal with warlords and Taliban outside Kabul.
"I am not optimistic, especially about Afghanistan. We and the Europeans have
yet to commit enough military and economic resources to Afghanistan to make
a difference, and the situation is clearly deteriorating," she added.
In July, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that both Iraq
and Afghanistan would surely end up as failed states if the United States and
the international community did not work together to salvage the two nations.
The security situation in both countries was dismal, he said.
"Can we afford two failed states in pivotal regions?" he asked. "It's
both undesirable and unacceptable if either Afghanistan or Iraq were to be lost.
The international community can't afford to see those countries going up in
flames. There would be enormous repercussions for stability, and not only in
(Inter Press Service)