September 10, 2015:
Afghanistan is at the same time the poorest and most heavily armed nation in Eurasia. Both are due to unfavorable cultural traits and trends. Since 2001 Western aid efforts have sought to deal with these problems. Greatly increasing GDP has proved easier to do than dealing with the violence.
With a population of 32 million Afghanistan now has over half a million men (and a few women) in the security forces (68 percent army, 26 percent national police and six percent local police). Afghanistan could never afford this on its own most of this is paid for by foreign donors, mainly the United States. The army includes the air force, which only has about one percent of all manpower and not many aircraft. In addition there are armed pro-government tribesmen available for emergencies in their own territories. Unless the tribes are facing a major threat to their own existence, the government has to provide some cash (for tribal leaders) and ammo (for weapons of militiamen) to get some action. There are over 100,000 armed men with tribes generally hostile to the government. These tribes and clans often take cash from the government and the drug cartels to cooperate. The drug gangs, the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups don’t have a lot of manpower, perhaps 50,000 armed men and they are largely involved with protecting the drug production and smuggling. Over five thousand are involved in terrorism operations. Not just bombing but also retaliation against tribesmen who interfere with drug operations or who will simply not cooperate with the drug gangs.
For all these forces the primary weapons are assault rifles, machine-guns, mortars, RPGs and grenades. The army has some artillery and armored vehicles but most everyone depends on civilian trucks and automobiles for transportation. The Afghan army would like to get more support troops to handle supplies, equipment maintenance and operation of electronic equipment. The army also wants more helicopters and modern communications equipment, but donors are reluctant because the Afghans still have a hard time using and maintaining high-tech stuff. Plus there is always the corruption which frequently sees money for maintenance stolen and sometimes the expensive gear “disappears” as well (into the black market.)
Despite this complex and discouraging situation the Afghan security forces, largely on their own since late 2014, have managed to outfight the Islamic terrorists and resist the bribes of the drug gangs. The bribes are not always refused, especially if the drug gangs agree to not terrorize the locals as they produce and move their product. Most Afghans are fed up with over three decades of constant war and that is a major factor in the success of the security forces.