UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
AFGHANISTAN: Regional commands to boost security
KABUL, 25 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Mohammad Mossa, 38, a newly trained Afghan National Army (ANA) officer, looked confident after graduating from the French-supported ANA staff training college in the capital, Kabul on Tuesday. The former militia leader was trained by French military experts in management and intelligence gathering on the two-month training course.
"Now I am fighter, a computer operator, a manager and a good planner," Mossa said, as he received his diploma. He is one of nearly 300 ANA senior officers that have been trained in the centre. He will be posted to a new regional command in charge of some of the 20,000 troops that comprise the new army. The force is expected to reach a strength of 70,000 troops by 2006, an official at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told IRIN.
Afghanistan desperately needs a well-trained and well-led army to promote law and order, provide security and take on private militia groups run by powerful regional warlords. "The ANA's capacity and quality has significantly increased and with its new regional divisions, it will be deployed in major Afghan cities," Baz Mohammad Jauhari, Deputy Defence Minister, told IRIN.
Attempts to increase the number of soldiers in the fledgling force have been hampered by a lack of suitable recruits and poor pay and conditions. But Jauhari said there was now more enthusiasm to join up, as ANA recruits currently enjoyed better pay and privileges than Afghan civil servants.
Jauhari said prior to the new regional commands, troops and units from the ANA's central corps, located in the Kabul region, were frequently deployed wherever needed around the country. They also carried out combat operations alongside US-led Coalition forces in the east and south.
"Now the ANA has new regional commands in the north, southeast and west of the country, there are command and control headquarters in each region of Afghanistan, as well as troops assigned to carry them out," he said.
While the process of disarming ex-combatants is under way, MoD officials said they would also start dismantling the irregular militias and individual armed groups who are currently a major security problem outside the Kabul. "The creation of the new Afghan army means that all private militias have to be banned," Jauhari added.
According to the defence ministry, more than half of all militia troops in Afghanistan have been assisted by the UN-backed Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, while another 30,000 are expected to put down their weapons permanently in 2005.
In a further boost to security, Kabul is also trying to have a trained Afghan national police (ANP) force by the end of 2005 consisting of 50,000 officers. Led by Germany, over 35,000 police have been trained since last year, according to the interior ministry.
In addition to the ANA and ANP there are more than 6,000 NATO-led international peacekeepers and nearly 20,000 US-led Coalition forces in Afghanistan. But the NATO-led force stays in the capital and Coalition troops spend most of their time hunting renegade Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups rather than ensuring general security.
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