It seems the reality about the Afghan army is even worse than reported by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Antonio Giustozzi writing in the Royal United Services Institute Journal of December 2009 has provided a detailed analysis of the shortcomings of the Afghan army in his article titled The Afghan National Army (ANA): Unwarranted Hope According to Giustozzi, the army is poorly led, largely illiterate and often corrupt. The recent plan is to bring its size to 240,000 by 2014, through the creation of a new corps covering Farah and Nimroz, new brigades for existing corps and an addition of an extra battalion to the existing three battalions in a brigade. This implies reducing the 10 week basic training for soldiers to eight weeks and officer courses from 25 to 20 weeks, while expanding class sizes from 1200 to 1400. The risk is in churning out grossly unqualified soldiers or cannon fodder. Ninety percent of the recruits have been illiterate with the remaining 10 percent having only primary level education, not a guarantee of functional literacy in Afghanistan. In addition, 20 to 25 percent of the troops are addicted to narcotics. A large portion of the officer corp is also illiterate (with estimates of 50 percent in the south in 2006) and this is only likely to worsen as the army undergoes rapid expansion. While the Americans are willing to shoulder the financial costs of the army, the real crisis relates to the management and logistical requirements underpinning the human resources needed to keep the system in place. Decisions about how to develop and equip the Afghan National Army continue to be made with complete disregard for the reality in the field e.g. the M-16 rifle and M-4 carbine are not only difficult to maintain, but also malfunction due to dust and mud, unlike the AK-47 Kalashnikov, the traditional weapon of choice. The ethnic breakdown of ANA by rank in 2008 shows that the Tajiks are still over represented, while Hazaras seem to have genuine complaints about discrimination in their promotion to the higher ranks. Percent Pashtun Tajik Hazara Uzbek Others Officers 44 43 7 3 4 NCOs 43 41 9 5 3 Enlisted 40 30 14 10 6 Officers distrust colleagues who are from different ethnic backgrounds. The result is the existence of rival patronage networks inside the army who tend to recruit on ethnic or regional basis. The largest of these networks is of Bismillah Khan, the Chief of Staff (formerly in the Shura-i-Nazar Supreme Council), who could count on the loyalty of six out of 11 brigade commanders and 12 out of 46 battalion commanders. The Minister of Defence, Abdul Rahim Wardak, could only count (in 2008) on the loyalty of one or two brigade commanders. Hazara groups (Hizb-i-Wahdat and Harakat-i-Islam) had the loyalty of one brigade commander and five battalion commanders, while four battalion commanders were linked to General Dostum and the Jumbash-i-Milli. Wardak and Bismillah Khan are reported to be not on speaking terms for several years, and in official meetings verbal abuse and disrespectful behaviour occurs frequently between Pashtuns and Tajiks. The other major divide crossing the ANA is between former mujah-ideen commanders and officers who served in the pro-Soviet army in the 80s and 90s. Corruption within the army has increased. According to the Inspector General US Department of Defence, disappearance of fuel, soldiers pay as well as army weapons and other equipment from army stores has received wide publicity. There are also allegations that a number of officers indulge in the smuggling of narcotics and other illegal activities. The army is so over-centralised that even the sacking of an NCO requires approval from Kabul. This extreme centralisation might be attributable not only to the Soviet legacy, but also to the rivalry between different factions and groups which fear each others' attempts to consolidate influence. Attrition rates have fallen from 40 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2005. Re-enlistment rates also climbed from 40 percent to 50 percent in the same period. However, combat losses and desertions combined result in a yearly turnover rate of 23 percent. The army is in reality 60 percent of its personnel charts. The capabilities of the ANA are assessed by its mentors through a system which assigns a level of proficiency from Combat Milestone 1 (Highest) to Combat Milestone 4 (Lowest) and upto May 2008 only a signal battalion and a Corps Headquarters Unit were graded at CM1. As pressures on the mentors grew to review the results, the number of units reaching CM1 jumped to 46 in the spring of 2009. The long-term risks involved in this sort of self-deception seemed obvious. However, with the change in guard in the White House in 2009, a franker assessment of the capabilities of the ANA started appearing. Giustozzis conclusion is that the ANA is based on a flawed model as it has to rely on modest human resources. At the same time, there are clearly deficiencies in the mentoring and training provided due to lack of sufficient understanding of counterinsurgency warfare. The model seems neither efficacious, nor appropriate, particularly since a massive expansion in size is envisaged. Human resources in Afghanistan are too limited and few men from the more educated segments are likely to pursue military career. (General Stanley McCh-rystal, in fact, referred to this issue in a meeting with the Afghan leaders berating them for not sending their sons to the army, while noting that two of his cousins were serving in Afghanistan.) Current evidence strongly suggests that the ANA will not, in the foreseeable future, develop into an army that can shoulder most, let alone the whole burden of fighting the insurgency. The writer is a retired ambassador.