Four rogue Afghan soldiers in Kandahar have attacked US or Australian troops in the past year. In all four cases, those soldiers had at least one relative who lives in Pakistan. Forgetting for a minute that Kandahar is just 40 miles from the Pakistan border, and that the province is primarily ethnic Pashtuns, who live along both sides of the border, what would you do?
Well if you’re the Afghan Defense Ministry, you issue a formal ultimatum demanding that every single Afghan soldier with any family in Pakistan “either move their relatives to Afghanistan or leave the military.” Pashtuns make up about 40 percent of the Afghan military.
At least for now. The Afghan Army has been ridiculously poor at retaining recruits, as poor pay and extremely dangerous working conditions have led to a lot of recruits collecting a paycheck or two and disappearing (usually with their weapon). The new policy could spell a mass exodus from the military.
After all, the southern Pashtun provinces are the least safe in Afghanistan, and the poor paying job of a single relative is unlikely to convince Pashtun families to move to Afghanistan. Officials have long presented the large Pashtun recruitment rates as a great success (traditionally the Afghan military has been dominated by ethnicities from northern Afghanistan), but the ultimatum is likely to dramatically change the army’s makeup.