Afghanistan seeks more international help to expand national army
KABUL (AFP) Mar 03, 2004
Afghanistan Wednesday called for greater international support to help expand its fledgling National Army and for establishing peace, security and accelerating reconstruction in the war-torn country.

"We know reconstruction is very important in Afghanistan and we can not do that without the support of the internaional community," Afghanistan's Deputy Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak told a gathering of diplomats, ISAF and US-led coalition officers at Kabul's military training center.

"Without an army we can not secure the country which is very important for the reconstruction," Wardak said.

He said help was needed because the government planned to accelerate the process of recruitment and training of soldiers for the Afghan National Army (ANA) which currently numbered at 7,500.

"What we have done is significant, but we need to do more to accelerate the building of an army."

Kabul military training center which is run by foreign troops under a US-led program currently trains three battalions of 850 soldiers each at a time, defense ministry spokesman, General Azimi told AFP.

He said the number of ANA for Kabul central corps would reach 10,000 in few weeks after the passing out of another three battlions. He said it was planned to train more battlions possibly up to six during each training course.

Azimi the ministry also planned to establish new corps in violence-prone southern provinces of Kandahar and Paktia.

The government and the international community want the ANA to grow to be 70,000-strong and, following the disarmament of the 100,000-to-200,000 militiamen in the country, become the dominant military force in Afghanistan.

ANA soldiers regularly take part in operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The troops performed military exercises, showing the skills they have learnt from their foreign trainers.

The US is leading international efforts to build Afghanistan an army to help the country with security and stability.

ANA recruits receive 50 US dollars a month during training and a minimum of 70 dollars per month after that, not a bad income in impoverished Afghanistan.

In addition to their imported uniforms and equipments, soldiers receive a seven-dollar-a-day food allowance and 60 dollars a month if they go on exercises outside the capital, Kabul. A handful of generals receive top salary of 850 dollars a month.