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What Can We Do for the New Afghan Army?

Thursday, 14 February 2002 12:00 AM

Last week, President Bush said that the U.S. will help Afghanistan build a military and train its soldiers rather than station additional U. S. troops there as part of a multinational peacekeeping force.

After meeting with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, the president also announced that the U.S. will support programs to train Afghan police officers.

By committing to help both institutions, the U.S. will have to consider how its allies will assist in this effort and whether it will build on the institutions now run by the Northern Alliance.

To allow the Northern Alliance tribes – whose leaders are deeply involved in international drug trafficking – to become a new Afghan army or national police force would be a big mistake, if not a total disaster.

Any political force inclined to make the Pushtuns and other ethnic groups feel intimidated would thus be ineffective.

The Northern Alliance was helpful during the struggle against the massive resistance of the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist forces, but it cannot be considered a constructive force in rebuilding the country.

It would be very difficult to trust the Northern Alliance leaders, most of whom are corrupt warlords who will sell their services to any and all comers, as well as peddle captured Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to anybody willing to pay cash for them.

According to the Russian media, as the war in Afghanistan neared its end, leaders of the Northern Alliance's tribes began to sell captured hostile fighters for $2,500 apiece, but lately the price has fallen to less than $2,000.

Intelligence experts believe that it will be important for the U.S. to direct the project of creating a new force in Afghanistan while letting Turkey, our secular Muslim NATO ally, play a major role in building and training military and police forces.

According to the Washington Times, our partners in Ankara have had experience in dealing with Afghanistan since the 1920s, when the Turkish military and other experts and instructors, along with teachers and doctors, were assigned to build schools, military colleges and hospitals in Afghan cities and villages.

Turkey's assistance continued through the middle of the last century, until Soviet influence in Afghanistan turned the country away from democratic reforms.

Turkey has the relationship with Afghanistan – ethically, politically and religiously – to make the military and security training effective.

There is no doubt that Ankara's assistance will be very helpful in a country where corrupt warlords still hold power and an interim government has not yet been tested.

The U.S. commitment could be framed by limited American presence in the area and by reasonable support of international efforts.

As reported in the media, dozens of Afghan warlords were given $200,000 payments and satellite phones to secure their cooperation in the war against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies.

The transactions totaled more than $7 million and helped spark a spending spree on four-wheel-drive vehicles in Pakistan.

In addition to money to establish an Afghan military, the U.S. will spend nearly $300 million already approved by Congress to "reconstruct" Afghanistan.

Part of the package is $122 million meant for food assistance. The White House also said the U.S. would provide $84 million for disaster assistance to rebuild agriculture, improve health care and stem the opium drug trade.

Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts will also receive aid from the World Bank, foreign governments and international donors, who at a recent Tokyo summit pledged $4.5 billion over the next five years.

While considerable amounts of these funds will disappear into the pockets of corrupt tribal warlords, in toto it will be enough for Afghan "reconstruction," including the buildup of its military and police.

In providing aid to Afghanistan, however, the U.S. needs to have control over the funds, which will go to the Afghan bureaucracy, especially to ensure that American taxpayers' money is not getting into the wrong hands.

If – during the war on terrorism and a less than desirable economic situation at home – the U.S. can still afford the money needed to help the Afghan people, we need to be sure that our money will not be used against our interests there and throughout the world.

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Last week, President Bush said that the U.S. will help Afghanistan build a military and train its soldiers rather than station additional U. S. troops there as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. After meeting with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, the...
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Thursday, 14 February 2002 12:00 AM
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