Afghanistan: Move towards conscription?

There have been several reports in recent months that Afghanistan might move to introduce conscription in the near future, to increase the strength of its Armed Forces. According to BBC News, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told a conference of the world's top defence officials in Germany that he is considering introducing conscription. The Afghan president said at the summit in Munich he wants to build an army and police force of 300,000 by 2012.

In his speech he said: "In the year ahead, together with our allies, we will be taking concrete steps to expand the strength and quality of our armed forces and to prepare for the gradual take-over of security responsibility from our international partners. This target calls for an ambitious effort and I urge our partners to priorities the training and equipping of our national forces as part of their continued commitment to help Afghanistan." In the process, Mr. Karzai continued, it might be advisable to introduce a form of universal conscription that was in keeping with the traditions of the Afghan people.

The president believes local Afghan leaders back conscription because the army can provide men from the countryside with a good education. Conscription was abolished in Afghanistan in 1992.

According to the Independent, Karzai's comments are in stark contrast to those made a week before by Afghanistan's Defence Minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, who had said the army had no shortage of recruits and that there was no need to force people to serve. The Afghan National Army has 97,000 troops and the Afghan National Police has 94,000 officers.

Already in September 2009, the Telegraph reported that Afghanistan's ministry of defence said it was drawing up plans for compulsory military service under a constitutional clause stating all Afghans have a duty to defend their country.

Sources: BBC News: Karzai considers introducing Afghan conscription, 7 February 2010; Hamid Karzai: Speech at the 46th Munich Security Conference, 7 February 2010; Munich Security Conference: Strengthening global cooperation: A retrospective view of the Munich Security Conference, 7 February 2010; Radio Netherlands Worldwide: Karzai considers conscription in Afghanistan, 7 February 2010; The Independent: Afghan President may introduce conscription, 8 February 2010; The Telegraph: Afghanistan may introduce compulsory military service, 25 September 2009