Afghan Army’s Turnover Threatens U.S. Strategy

The first thing Col. Akbar Stanikzai does when he interviews…

The first thing Col. Akbar Stanikzai does when he interviews recruits for the Afghan National Army is take their cellphones.

He checks to see if the ringtones are Taliban campaign tunes, if the screen savers show the white Taliban flag on a black background, or if the phone memory includes any insurgent beheading videos.

Often enough they flunk that first test, but that hardly means they will not qualify to join their country’s manpower-hungry military. Now at its biggest size yet, 195,000 soldiers, the Afghan Army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, officials say.

The attrition strikes at the core of America’s exit strategy in Afghanistan: to build an Afghan National Army that can take over the war and allow the United States and NATO forces to withdraw by the end of 2014. The urgency of that deadline has only grown as the pace of the troop pullout has become an issue in the American presidential campaign.

Read more at The New York Times

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