Forces: Afghanistan Thinks Much Bigger


December 7, 2007: Afghanistan is going to expand its army to about 200,000, if it can get foreign allies to donate enough money and trainers. The current army is expected to complete its training by the end of next year, when it will reach its planned strength of 70,000. There will also be a national police force of 82,000. Previously, the largest peacetime army Afghanistan ever had was in the late 1970s, when a Russian trained force of 90,000 (with over a thousand armored vehicles) was raised. This did not last, as a civil war broke out, and the Russians invaded in late 1979. A year later, most of the army had rebelled or deserted. When the Russians left in 1989, they had rebuilt the Afghan army to 45,000 troops. That force disappeared in the next five years, as the nation descended into civil war. The Taliban won that war, but never had a standing force of more than 20,000, and these were largely militia, with one brigade of fanatical, and deadly, al Qaeda fighters.

The current army has been trained to Western standards, by NATO instructors. By Afghan standards, it's a pretty effective force. Nearly tripling its size will take several years, if the same training methods are used. The thousand or so Russian tanks the Afghans had in the late 1970s, are nearly all gone to scrap, chicken coops, or roadside reminders of the Russian invasion. The Afghans are reequipping with Cold War surplus German Leopard tanks. The air force is shopping around for cheap fighters, and counter-insurgency aircraft. The Afghans are receiving a lot of Cold War surplus Russian helicopters from Eastern Europe and Russia.

The Afghans want a larger force to deal with the Taliban insurrection, the growing power of the drug gangs, and possible trouble with Pakistan or Iran.




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