For NATO’s political leaders and top military brass, the pledge to grow the Afghan military is always a safe default. Indeed, the Afghan military is already so large that the Afghan government could never hope to pay for it, and plans are in place to dramatically increase its size.
But for the troops on the ground, distrust of their Afghan “allies” is so great that when trouble breaks out they aren’t sure if they should train their guns on the Taliban or the Afghan Army.
It isn’t just an overreaction to those occasions when Taliban have infiltrated the security forces and killed NATO troops. It isn’t even the fact that so many of the Afghan troops are raw recruits with almost no training, most of whom will be gone after a few paychecks.
The corruption in the Afghan government is well known, but less often discussed is how deeply it extends into these enormous security forces being bankrolled by the US and its allies. The raw recruits may be incompetent, but many of the commanders only got where they are through overt bribery, and then only on the assumption that they can steal and coerce enough to make a profit on the deal. In short the Afghan security force is a wreck from top to bottom, and are so unpredictable that any plan, short or long term, dependent on them seems doomed to fail.
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