Reducing Afghan forces can lead to catastrophe: Minister

February 19th, 2012 - 9:58 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, Feb 19 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Reducing the number of Afghan security forces, army and police, by more than one-third after 2014 could lead Afghanistan to a catastrophe, the defence minister has said.

“Going lower (in Afghan troop numbers) has to be based on realities on the ground. Otherwise it will be a disaster, it will be a catastrophe, putting at risk all that we have accomplished together with so much sacrifice in blood and treasure,” Abdul Rahim Wardak was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the plans of the Afghan government, the total number of Afghan army and police had to grow to 352,000 people by the fall of 2012.

But now, the US is spending about $11.2 billion per year on this army, which exceeds the entire annual budget of Afghanistan, he said.

The commander of a training mission in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, earlier said the number of Afghan security forces after 2014 should be reduced to 230,000 people so that the funding would be acceptable for both the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

“Nobody at this moment, based on any type of analysis, can predict what will be the security situation in 2014. That’s unpredictable,” Wardak said.

The newspaper said America’s NATO allies were reluctant to fund the bloated Afghan army and police during the global economic crisis.

A diplomat from a NATO country said: “The Americans didn’t ask our advice when they were building it (Afghan security forces) up, and now all of a sudden they want us to pay up.”

Wardak said: “At the moment, these forces are built as lighter-than-light infantry.”

He said that if the security situation in the field improves, if the Taliban go to peace talks on national reconciliation, and Pakistan shuts down insurgent safe havens on its soil, it is possible that a force of 230,000 would be enough.

“But if it doesn’t then all that we are planning will be in danger. We have to leave some level of flexibility,” Wardak added.

According to the Wall Street Journal, when the US decided to disarm the Iraqi army in 2003, it led to the increase of the rebel movement in the country due to formation of fighters augmented by trained soldiers.

–IANS/RIA Novosti
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