WASHINGTON – The Afghan National Army, a pillar of the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan and withdrawing U.S. troops next year, is riddled with corruption, ethnic friction and rivalries among its highest leaders that are hampering its ability to fight the Taliban-led insurgency, according to a new study.
“Ethnic frictions and political factionalism among high-level players in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the general staff have … stunted the army’s growth,” says the report by the International Crisis Group, a respected independent crisis-monitoring organization. “As a result, the army is a fragmented force, serving disparate interests, and far from attaining the unified national character needed to confront numerous security threats.”
The report, a copy of which was obtained by McClatchy Newspapers, is set to be issued later this week as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and many of his top officials are on a visit to Washington to sooth serious friction with the Obama administration.
Expanding and improving the Afghan army is at the heart of the strategy that President Barack Obama unveiled in December for crushing the Taliban-led insurgency, preventing the country’s reversion to a sanctuary for al-Qaida and beginning a U.S. military withdrawal in July 2011.
The new report raises serious doubts about the U.S. effort, which calls for expanding the ANA to 240,000 troops from 90,000 by 2013. The report warns that continued problems “could risk the army’s disintegration after the withdrawal of international forces.”