A discouraging look at the Afghan army

It’s from the New York Times, but the reporters they have out in the fighting seem pretty solid types so I expect this is accurate. Sounds like it’s the officer class that is lacking, more than the Afghan soldiers themselves. These people did defeat the Russians (and the English and Alexander the Great and everyone who’s ever messed with them) so presumably they can fight. But they aren’t being led.


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3 responses to “A discouraging look at the Afghan army

  1. Anonymous

    they can go with little food for days and live by drinking water from puddles.
    they can walk for days across rugged terrain in crappy shoes which wouldn’t make the shelves of the dollar store.

    since the time of their great-grandfathers and before, they have been picking off the enemy at ranges of greater than 800 yards.

    • christopherfountain

      All of which I agree with you on, Anon (although the reporter’s description of Afghan troops just pointing their rifles in the general direction of the enemy and letting fly undercuts the argument that they can hit targets 800 yards out). My thinking, admittedly uninformed, is that they have no tradition of a real army – gangs led by warlords seems to have been the pattern. You need an army, I am told, hold territory. And for an army, you need trained, capable leaders. Or maybe not – the British seemed to do well for centuries with a pretty piss-poor officer class. But I think a West Point of Afghanistan would be a good start, if there’s time.

  2. Anonymous

    good morning CF, a brief response to your good good points on a broad topic.

    afghanistan is fundamentally tribal. nation state is a weak concept there. West Point is an outstanding national institution in the U.S., but national institution is a fuzzy and uncertain concept in afghanistan.

    regarding the varieties of war and shooting in afghanistan:

    During Elphinstone’s disaster of 1841, his Corps of the Bengal Army was destroyed by 600 – 800 yard shots from already aged jezails on the way into, during their stay in, and on the way out of Kabul, before the final massacres and atrocities. Similar stories from the later Border Wars.

    The Russians in the 1980s were forced into a garrison & defense strategy by long range Afghan shooters using century old Enfields, captured Dragunovs, etc.

    In contrast to the deadly treatment reserved for foreign interlopers (and each other during the more brutal civil wars, e.g. Kabul 1990s), there is another goodly portion of Afghan warfare which is more like an afternoon intramural between rival Pashtun clans. AKs at 300+ yards (beyond the practical accuracy of the weapon) on ground with good cover (bullet proof places to hide), while dangerous and potentially deadly, can be executed by experienced practitioners with minimal injury to both sides. Huge amounts of ammo (literally money) can be expended, and much glory gained via flamboyant (un-aimed) spray and pray. At the end of the day, the rivals are as likely to get together to swap stories, and info on which commanders are paying more per head, per diem for fighters, and to arrange future engagements.