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Conscription in the Afghan Army Compulsory Service versus an All Volunteer Force

Jerry MeyerleNilanthi SamaranayakeMike MarkowitzLonn WatersHilary ZarinBrian EllisonChris JehnBill Rosenau
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According to many observers, the core problem in Afghanistan is that it is not a na- tion, but a smattering of disconnected peoples with little sense of loyalty to a national government. In early 2010, Afghan President Hamid Karzai raised the possibility of instituting conscription – defined as compulsory military service – as a means to bring the country together and forge a sense of nationalism.

This paper explores the trade-offs of conscription versus an all volunteer force in Afghanistan. The main question is whether instituting conscription in the Afghan army is advisable or not. The Afghan military today is an all volunteer force. This study concludes that conscription is not the best option for Afghanistan. Man- power needs do not require it, and the Afghan government lacks sufficient capacity and legitimacy to implement it effectively. It is highly likely that a draft would further divide the country and alienate the population in the very areas where the insurgency is strongest. Conscription would vitiate the effectiveness of the army while yielding few rewards.

A professional, all volunteer force is better suited to Afghanistan’s unique conditions. A professional army will be necessary to defeat the insurgency and stabilize the country, which is the army’s most important mission. A capable, cohesive, and professional army is vital for the continued viability of Afghanistan’s national government.

If the Afghan government decides to move ahead with conscription regardless, the US and NATO should insist on building political consensus beforehand, especially in less stable areas. The army should remain a mostly volunteer force, well below 50 percent conscript. Professionalism must be maintained; developing good leaders will become even more important. Conscripts should be paid a decent salary and provided with an education and other opportunities useful in civilian life. Press gang tactics should be avoided at all costs.

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Details

  • Pages: 70
  • Document Number: CRM D0024840.A2/Final
  • Publication Date: 4/1/2011
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