Can a military draft work in Afghanistan?

By Nasim Fekrat (in Pennsylvania, U.S.)

During his visit to Germany, Hamid Karzai has stated that his government will consider instituting mandatory national military service. Afghanistan lacks a strong national apparatus for nation building where people from different ethnic background can share and learn from each other. Such an institution has been one of Afghanistan’s most fundamental needs over the last few years. Despite this, compulsory military service would be impossible to implement.

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country with each ethnic group claiming to have priority over the others. The Pashtun are the majority ethnic group, form 40 percent of population and have been ruling for over two centuries in Afghanistan. They claim to have the same position today. The other ethnic groups -- Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek -- have been marginalized and have been oppressed by ruthless Pashtun dictatorships. Today, 99 percent of Taliban come from Pashtun tribes.

There are lots of Pashtuns in the ANA but they have rarely been sent to the front lines of the conflict, especially in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan. Over the last few years some Pashtuns who had been sent to Helmand to fight against the Taliban either joined the Taliban or betrayed and shot to death their fellow soldiers. Today, most of the soldiers who are fighting against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan are non-Pashtun.

Thus, it will be very difficult for the Karzai government to implement mandatory military service in the fight against the Taliban. If other ethnic groups join the army and fight against the Pashtun-led Taliban movement, this war will not be war against Taliban anymore. In a more practical sense, people will predictably try to avoid military service, seeing no reason to fight against their countrymen.

Nasim Fekrat is the editor of the Afghan Lord blog. He is now a student at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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