Last year, the Afghan army had a desertion rate of 25 percent (a
quarter of the troops would walk a way in a year.) Some investigating took
place, and it was found that the most common reason for quitting was the
availability of higher paying (and safer) jobs in the booming civilian economy.
Troops were only getting $70 a month, and there were plenty of jobs for
laborers, at the same pay. So pay was raised to $100 a month, and some officers
were assigned to keep an eye on the civilian job market, and give warning when
another pay raise was needed. In Afghanistan, desertion is considered a right,
not an offense.
lesser reasons for deserting were also addressed. These included housing and
food. Now the desertion rate is down to 15 percent, and headed for ten, which
is lower than it's ever been in the Afghan army. Some reasons cannot be
addressed, like soldier who didn't like combat, or did not like fighting other
Afghans. From an Afghan point-of-view, these attitudes are perfectly normal,
even though they seem strange to Westerners. Afghans have been able to adjust
to these odd Western concepts of military discipline and intense training.
Trainers find that, because Afghans are big fans of Western adventure movies,
they have to work extra hard to teach their recruits that you cannot fight, and
survive, by doing it as it's portrayed in films.
with the desertion, the training program that has created the current 35,000
man army, has been a success. The troops are effective, and only a handful were
found to be working for the Taliban, despite energetic Taliban efforts to
infiltrate the armed forces. There are some 5,000 foreign trainers working with
the Afghan army, and 2,000 new recruits are being turned into soldiers each
month. The government wants an army of at least 50,000 troops, or 75,000, if
they can get enough foreign aid to pay for it. A major test for the Afghan army
will come this Winter, when Afghan troops will continue to seek out the
Taliban, at a time of year when Afghan warriors traditionally stay indoors. But
the foreign troops have convinced the Afghans that, if the Western troops can
run around in the Winter, seeking out the enemy, then the Afghans can do it as
well. There have been limited Afghan army Winter operations in the past, but
this year, it's the big time. American helicopters make a big difference,
moving troops and supplies over snowed in roads and passes.