Afghan Army’s High Turnover Clouds US Exit Plan

One Third of Troops Desert Annually

Even though massive amounts of funding have somehow turned Afghanistan’s military into nearly 200,000 soldiers at any given time, the problem that had officials terming NATO’s training mission a “disaster” years ago remains, attrition.

Getting 200,000 people to join the Afghan military is doable. Getting them to stay in the Afghan military, with low pay rates and constant battles, is not, and officials say that roughly one third of the military deserts in any given year, forcing them to find new recruits to replace them.

Officials continue to claim that they are trying to improve vetting to prevent insider attacks from Taliban infiltrators, but having to replace over 1,000 troops a week just to maintain force levels makes this all but impossible.

And even if they aren’t Taliban infiltrators, the average recruit is not only inexperienced but around the bottom of the barrel in Afghanistan’s worker pool, as most people turning to the military in the country are those with no other economic prospects, desperate enough to stay long enough to get a check or two, but quick to leave if an alternative shows up.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of