Afghanistan: conscription on the agenda?

It seems almost an annual news item. In October 2009 (see CO-Update No 51) and in February 2010 (see CO-Update No 54) we reported about discussions in the Afghan and US administrations about the introduction of conscription in Afghanistan. Now the Washington Post reported on 28 April that "Karzai considers military draft in Afghanistan instead of all-volunteer army" - so the headline of the article. According to the Washington Post:

"The prospect of mandatory conscription, though still only a topic of discussion, has some appeal for Karzai because it would be cheaper than fielding the costly security forces that are rapidly growing with American money and support, the officials said. The Afghan security forces are projected to cost more than $6 billion to sustain in 2014, the year Afghans are set to take sole control of their combat duties — a vast sum for a country that took in $1.5 billion in revenue last year."

After November's NATO conference in Lisbon, the Afghan government and the coalition training command proposed a new target for Afghanistan's security forces: having as many as 378,000 forces by October 2012. The goal, according to a senior US military official in Kabul, emerged as part of a concept developed at the conference - "irreversible transition."

However, US military experts seem to be opposed to the idea of conscription in Afghanistan. They point to the fact that in recent years the Afghan security forces have been able to reach their recruitment targets. “Why would you need a draft when you’ve got an overabundance of recruits?” asked one US military official in Kabul involved in the training effort according to the Washington Post. On a draft, the official said, “our position would be absolutely not.

Sources: Washington Post: Karzai considers military draft in Afghanistan instead of all-volunteer army, 28 April 2011; Washington Post: Plan calls for more Afghan security forces, 18 January 2011